Every time we visit our Youth With Physical Disabilities Entrepreneurs Project, I am overwhelmed with the love amongst this group and reminded that happiness can be and should be simple.
The groups are comprised of both young people with disabilities and caretakers of youth with disabilities. They are split into two groups of mushroom farmers, a group of candle makers and a group of vegetable farmers. This project is progressing very slowly and the impact on income generation is not yet where we want it to be, BUT the project has created a variety of benefits that are equally important and are clearly abundant.
Most of our cooperative members used to resort to begging and had no income before our program. There are few government programs for people with disabilities here. The incomes have significantly increased since I was here last year, but need to continue doing so. However, the beneficiaries have used their small profits to start small personal businesses in addition to the group businesses that are part of our program. Some examples are snack kiosks, chapati stand, video library rental, tailor and livestock.
Candle maker, Paul, said that being part of this group has taught him communication and leadership skills. It has given him confidence and taught him how to be an advocate for people living with disabilities. When I asked if the candle business would be able to keep improving on its income generation, Paul quickly replied, AUTOMATICALLY”. Everyone laughed, but not because it isn’t true. They laughed because he said he said it so definitively.
Mushroom farmer, David, has a wheelchair now and, for the first time in his life, he does not have to walk on his hands. He is a single father of a little girl.
Vegetable farmer, Agnes, can now send her 13 year old wheelchair bound son to school, because she can afford his diapers. The list goes on and on.
We ate lunch prepared by the women in the village, my favorite, and we all celebrated. It was sincere. It was joyous. It was shared by all, including us.