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From Jubail to Nepal and Back Again Twice: Lending a Hand Can Be as Simple as Download, Print, and Send
By Suvidhi Bhalgat 16-Jun-16
Bhim Maya Moktan is a fourth-grade student who lives at the Centre for Disabled Children Assistance (CDCA) in Kathmandu, Nepal. She was born with hands that aren’t quite the same as most people’s. Her fingers are missing, and the CDCA’s report on her states that the condition is congenital, or present from birth. As part of WOW Week this year (November 15–19, 2015), Ashely Bondurant and Emma Ahmed took 13 kids to Kathmandu, Nepal, to volunteer at the Centre for Disabled Children Assistance, or the CDCA. Now, Bondurant and the students from the Nepal trip are working on 3D-printed wearable fingers. The premise is simple: There are five “fingers” with fishing wire threaded through them that connect them to the “palm.” Bhim Maya will fit her hand into an indentation on the bottom of the 3D-printed prosthetic hand and strap the wire to her wrist. Depending on how she bends her wrist, the fingers will furl and unfurl, letting her grab and hold things, such as mugs. Ahmed has high hopes for the project. “I think it’s amazing,” she says, smiling. I’m so excited to hear all about it, because, when [Cami and Chandler] were there, they said they’d like to go back and visit, and the family were very interested in what we were doing, and jealous that we were going, and they wanted to go too, so I’m going to be very interested to see what can they do, and how we can continue to support even from a distance: what we can provide for this community through something like a 3D printer, and can we make somebody hands? Like, that’s just phenomenal.” Dendi Sherpa is a guide who works in the region and, today, is the link between our school (ISG Jubail) and the CDCA. Bondurant communicates with him through Facebook. When they went there, he asked Sherpa: “‘How can we help? What are some things we can do?’ [Sherpa] mentioned a couple of projects that we could help with.” Sherpa talked about two young girls who Bondurant and the rest of the group are now taking great efforts to help: Bhim Maya, who is missing her fingers, and Bhumika Adhikari, who is missing her legs. The projects they brought back with them were not small, but not impossible, either, as they have now proved. However, there were some roadblocks, Bondurant says: “At first, when we came back, there was a lot of getting back to life as usual, and to be honest, we kind of ignored that project for a while, in almost every respect. . . . So, nothing happened with it for three or four weeks. . . . Then, we kind of remembered some of the promises we made while there and tried to follow through with them.” After several weeks and printing sessions that sometimes took half a day, the makeshift hand is almost complete. Now, he is just waiting for some special printing plastic for the joints, but other than that, he is done, he happily declares. “We really wanted to see what we could continue to do to support their organization,” Ahmed says. Ahmed was the community and service coordinator at her previous school. When asked why she volunteered, Ahmed said: “When you see how much they have and how much we have . . . I think it’s really important for all of our community to be able to give back.” As for getting the “hand” to Bhim Maya, a pair of siblings from our school are going back to the CDCA during spring break with their family. “I really enjoyed the trip to Nepal; it was a great cultural and learning experience,” says Cami S., a freshman. “ I really loved to learn about the Nepalese culture and visit with the kids at the Center for Disabled Children. I wanted to go on the service project because I was interested in Nepal, and I enjoy helping others.” According to Ahmed, “It was kind of difficult for [the kids at the orphanage] to interact. Some of them had language barriers, like the younger kids didn’t really speak much English . . . They played a lot of games together, and it was really nice for them to see that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what language you speak, or what disability you have, you like the same sort of things.” The other girl, Bhumika, has a harrowing past: her mother has epilepsy, and when she was a mere three weeks old, her mother had a seizure, and sent Bhumika flying into an open flame. When she finally regained lucidity, Bhumika’s legs were damaged beyond repair. “She is the smiliest, happiest, cutest little girl,” Ahmed says of Bhumika. “Basically, when we were there we were very affected by some of the kids that were there, particularly Bhumika. She was one of the students.” “The kids really impacted me,” says Cami. “I saw that most of them had missing limbs or other disabilities, and it shows you just how fortunate we are with our functional bodies. Going to Nepal showed me a different side to the world—the poorer side. I wanted to do whatever I could to help them and the 3D-printed hand will do that for Bhim Maya. I’m just glad that I am able to contribute.” As for how the trip affected her, she had this to say: “I think it definitely humbled me and made me think of how much I have. I think I need those kinds of experiences more often because you get into a bubble. . . . It’s really important to be reminded of how the majority of the world lives, and how we’re very lucky.” A quarter of the country’s population sits below the poverty line. According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2014, Nepal’s GDP was ranked 199 out of the 230 states recognized. According to the World Bank, in September 2015, 30 percent of the country was reported to have had no access to electricity. The reason Nepal is so impoverished right now is because it is just coming out of a 10-year conflict as well as recovering from a major earthquake. Bondurant states he got the idea of volunteering there from a former teacher: “Mrs. Tahir went to Nepal and worked with an orphanage, and it was a wonderful experience for her . . . I spoke with Mrs. Tahir about joining her on a future WOW week trip.” However, this year’s Week came at an unfortunate time. “When we visited during WOW Week, it was a holiday–their biggest holiday of the year,” he says. Fortunately, they found another place to volunteer at: the Centre for Disabled Children Assistance. “Most of the kids have families, and when we went, more than half of the kids had gone back to their families,” he explains. Now, the students and Bondurant are petitioning to raise money for Bhumika, so that she can get the bionic legs she deserves. “We had the idea also to purchase them a 3D printer,” Bondurant adds. Suvidhi Bhalgat is a Grade 10 student in Jon Netzler’s Journalism class at ISG Jubail in Saudia Arabia. Donations can be made here: https://goo.gl/NC18sT
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