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Hand-cranked trikes bring hope in Nepal

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
DHARAN, Nepal (BP) -- Uraj experiments awkwardly with the hand-propelled tricycle.

"His grip is good. He'll be sore tomorrow, but he'll get the hang of this," says Bruce Burk, a Christian worker in Nepal who designed the trike after seeing how difficult it was for Uraj and other disabled individuals to travel in their villages.


Uraj survived polio but was left with withered legs and a limited future. Though the tricycle will take some getting used to, it will offer him an independence he's never known. Instead of crawling along the ground or moving awkwardly with the aid of others, he'll ride securely upright even along the rough roads of his village.

Burk and his wife Sherri want to help the disabled find dignity and independence. With a grant from Baptist Global Response, the Burks opened a welding shop called Hope Haven in Dharan, Nepal, to build tricycles especially designed for the disabled who do not have use of their legs.

Even those who are not disabled find it difficult to travel rural Nepali roads while dodging water buffalo. In congested cities, meanwhile, it can be nearly impossible for the 300,000-plus physically disabled in Nepal to navigate streets where buses, trucks, motorcycles and rickshaws jostle for space.

The hand-powered tricycles are sturdy enough to withstand the rough roads plus big enough to protect their rider and carry packages. Burk's design makes it possible for the physically disabled to get to school, work, church and the market on their own -- opening new roads of hope and opportunity. They are lighter than similar models and blend in with the rickshaws that crowd the roads.

Each tricycle costs around 15,000 Nepali rupees (around $200 US) to build, but Hope Haven sold them for only 1,500 (about $20) -- a payment that nurtures a sense of ownership for disabled people and their families.


"If they pay for it, they respect it," Burk says. "But ... to come up with 15,000 would take years, if they ever could." The 1,500-rupee price, made possible by Southern Baptists, still can entail four to six weeks of extra effort to make a purchase.


Gangaram is a skilled worker with small electronics, but he had to wait for customers to bring him an item to repair. His lack of mobility made it difficult for him to make enough money to support himself and his family. "Now I can go where the work is on my own," he said upon receiving a tricycle. "Everyone in my family will be helped."

A father told how his tricycle is allowing him to take his children to school and helping him to be more involved in their lives.

A young boy was getting too big for his mother to carry. She was afraid he would become confined to his home, like many other disabled. With his tricycle he has the freedom to move around outside, leaving behind a life trapped within the walls of his house.

A young man called the Burks to say, "I just took my school tests and passed! I never could have done this without the tricycle."

Tricycle recipients aren't the only ones to benefit from Hope Haven. Burk hires only people who are disabled themselves or are advocates for the disabled. "It's not about me training up workers for my production; it's about building up people," Burk says.

"We have had three deaf workers, two polio survivors and two who were advocates for disabled ministries. None of them had any fabrication or welding skills when they started. The confidence gained from the training has allowed some to choose other types of work," he says. One of his deaf workers saved his money and opened his own shop after Burk taught him to weld.


Another worker, Dundaa, "quickly learned the fabrication and welding skills. Yet he watched as I would custom fit the units to the individual," Burk recounts. "One day, he asked if he could do the custom fit. He did an excellent job of evaluating the individual and then made the correct adjustments. Because of his ability, I was able to turn the entire production over to the workers."

In Nepal, hope now comes to some on three wheels and Southern Baptists have helped bring it.

Raye Hudson is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response, on the Web at

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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