In 2002, when Shiva Maya and her husband had their first child, a baby girl, they were overjoyed. The mother, 38 and father, 55, had least expected a child at their age.
The joy was however, short-lived. As their child grew up, she became immovable but was a peaceful child, the mother recollects. At one and half years, their child Tika Devi Thapa fell ill and was immediately taken to the nearby hospital in Damphu.
Tika Devi began getting seizure disorders soon. When several rounds of hospital treatment did not help, the family began seeking help from the village shaman. Sixteen years on, the family continues to depend on the shaman every other day. “After the shaman’s ritual, she becomes better for a while,” the mother said.
But Tika Devi keeps getting at least two seizures a day.
Paralyzed on the left part of her body, which is smaller, she can sit upright with support. She understands what her mother says but isn’t able to respond.
“She tries to talk and when she can’t, she gets irritated,” her mother said.
Because of her illness, the child was not taken for her vaccine that’s given to children when they turn nine months and two years. The mother says, she was too sick to be taken anywhere.
While the father works in the field, the mother carries out household chores and attends to their daughter. She feeds, cleans, changes her clothes and carries her to the toilet, which is about 200 meters away from the house.
To help bring the toilet facility nearer, members of Community Based Scouting (CBS) in Tsirang volunteered to construct a flush toilet adjacent to their makeshift hut. It has a western pot. The construction was carried out over three weekends and completed on July 14.
CBS coordinator who is also the legal officer of Tsirang, Janchu Dorji said that at the moment the dzongkhag administration is initiating a programme to make sure a flush toilet is constructed in every household but a disability friendly toilet isn’t part of it. Tika Devi’s family was found unable to build a toilet on their own.
“They are already poor and let alone a disability friendly toilet, they can’t afford a normal toilet,” he said. “So the CBS team stepped in to help them.”
The toilet includes a wheelchair track from the hut until the toilet. The toilet has door wide enough to fit in the wheelchair. Outside the hut, a wheelchair track has also been laid for Tika Devi to move around. The space otherwise was an uneven surface full of stones.
Senior Health Assistant Dawa Dema of Damphu General hospital who is also one of the CBS members said materials for the construction was received in donation from the business community, locals, civil servants and members of the CBS. Tsirang has 59 CBS members.
Shiva Maya said a toilet at this proximity was never expected. “My daughter’s life will be a lot easier now,” she said.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang