According to research, people with disabilities in Nepal are more likely to be unemployed and underpaid, leading to a greater risk of poverty.
Though many people with disabilities are capable of working, finding stable jobs is nearly impossible due to many workplaces lacking accessibility, education/training, and resources that would enable employees with varying abilities to be successful.
In 2010, Dinesh Kumar Thapa, a native to Nepal, founded Yes Helping Hands in an attempt to combat these barriers by offering work opportunities to people with disabilities. During the past eleven years, this organization has grown to employ 80 artisans, supporting over 320 dependents.
Dinesh, Founder and CEO of Yes Helping Hands
For Dinesh, the most fulfilling part of his job is seeing artisans grow their confidence as they become increasingly independent. Dinesh explained that when people with disabilities are provided with the proper training assistance, and accessibility, they can excel in their places of work.
“And often, when they have this,” Dinesh said, referring to additional resources, “they can perform better than I could.”
For example, “Some of the best weavers are blind,” Dinesh stated, explaining that when he works, he often distracts himself because he can see other things. “But people who are blind cannot see, so they rely on what they feel, and they can be attentive in ways I cannot.”
When Bikesh started with Yes Helping hands, he received training that empowered him to begin a career in weaving. Like many people with disabilities, Bikesh’s deafness was a barrier in finding and obtaining jobs prior to connecting with Yes Helping Hands. As an artisan who has been with Yes Helping Hands since it’s conception, Bikesh has flourished as a weaver and is now an instructor who teaches other artisans with disabilities how to excel in their craft.
“Weaving taught me how to survive and built confidence in life,” Gita, an artisan with Yes Helping Hands explained, “In Nepal society, people often think that because you are differently abled, you cannot do a lot of things, but weaving showed me my path for my life, and gave me my dignity back in society. I can proudly say that I am able to work.”
Dinesh stated that the best way to support artisans with disabilities is to buy their products. “When people offer us donations, I encourage them instead to buy from our workshop,” he explained. “Donations have a one-time benefit, but when you buy products made by artisans with disabilities--and when you refer your friends and colleagues to those products--you are providing work opportunities, and work opportunities provide dignity.