Trailblazers of Goa: Passionate People Who Make A Difference
How Tragedy Transformed One Man’s Life
And The Countless Others He Helps
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Goa Streets series, “Trailblazers of Goa: Passionate People Who Make A Difference” features photos and interviews with those who break convention, obliterate barriers, seize new opportunities and inspire the best in us. We have asked each of our Trailblazers the exact same questions about their lives and hopes for Goa (see bottom of this story). This week’s Trailblazer is Dinesh Kumar Thapa, founder of Yes Helping Hands, an organisation that gives hope to disabled people throughout India by providing them with livelihoods and dignity. Read on to discover Dinesh’s incredibly moving personal story. Trailblazers of Goa pictures have been taken by noted photographer Eugen Hanley, with words by long-time writer and world traveller Hilary Lapedis.
Eight years ago, tragedy struck Nepali Dinesh Kumar Thapa.Originally from Kathmandu,37-year-old Dinesh enjoyed a successful career. Trained as a French chef, living happily with his young family in Pokhara, Nepal and running seven successful businesses, nothing suggested what drama was to follow. But, out of a dreadful sequence of unnecessary deaths, ‘Yes Helping Hands’ was born.
A visibly emotional Dinesh haltingly tells me his story. During a blood test at the hospital,his wife was injected with an air filled syringe. Dinesh watched as his young wife tragically succumbed. On July 2nd, she passed away leaving him with a one-year-old daughter. Most of us in that horrendous situation would do as he did. Retreat into mourning; questioning life’s purpose. Not many of us though, would come out fighting to dignify those who are differently abled. His mission, ‘Yes Helping Hands’ finds deaf, blind and physically challenged people and provides them with training, an income and ultimately, pride and self-respect.“Desiring is helpful, but work and desire are invincible.”
Dinesh was by no means poor, but quickly learned that “money cannot save everything”. His wealth couldn’t save his wife so he sold everything and returned from Pokhara to his parents in Kathmandu. Finally, after a period of grieving, he vowed to make a difference in the lives of others. Returning to Pokhara, he saw a young boy, Balbadhur getting beaten up. Dinesh intervened and tried to start a conversation with him. The boy said nothing. Dinesh, realizing that he was deaf, began feeding him. Once again, tragedy struck and the boy was found drowned in Pokhara.
“Money we need but money cannot give the satisfaction or the love,” says Dinesh. Moved by the death of the deaf boy, he began to focus on supporting and empowering hearing impaired people. Yes Helping Hands was born in Pokhara in 2011 with Dinesh’s first two charges, Balika, 23 and Balmaya, 35. Both are deaf and were below the poverty line. With no hope of marrying without having money of their own, coupled with their disability, they lacked self-esteem. Now, married and with skills in Spa massage therapy and hand weaving, Yes Helping Hands has provided them with dignity and a hopeful future. His many other clients are trained in handloom weaving and massage. His shops in 22 locations including one in Candolim and one in Arambol, sell those shawls, hats and scarves. The money raised by purchasing any of his beautiful products supports these people in need, enhancing their hope of a positive future. His clients now include those with varying physical disabilities and trafficked women. Now, we in Goa have the opportunity to help by buying Dinesh’s products for a very good cause.”It is good to dream, but it is better to dream and work.”
Dinesh set up Yes Helping Hands out of his own tragedy. When the Nepali earthquake struck 3 years ago, he literally felt the earth beneath the wheels of his car give way.Of course, he plunged directly into the relief efforts. Be it re-building schools destroyed in the disaster or handing out white canes for the blind, yes, Dinesh Kumar Thapa you are a trailblazer!
What inspires you about Goa?
I am inspired by the beauty and bounty of nature, by the vast wilderness of our forests, by the pristine waters surrounding an archipelago. I am inspired by the color and richness of the culture of indigenous peoples.
If you could become King or Queen of Goa, what would you change about it?
I would Like to do many things and they can be successful.These things include the following:
Firstly,I would assemble people to thank them for their trust and request them to work with me these days.
I would like to understand their problems and where they work well politically,economically and socially so that I can get a start.
Then,I would provide food for everyone especially peasants so that they can work well and morally. There must be people who didn’t eat for like three days and today,they have a chance of having food which can’t be wasted.
I shall promote schools and orphans by giving them basic needs so that children or any other people who want to study, to feel loved and free to express his/her feelings in the country.
Teach parents that their children are tomorrow’s future. Girls’ rights should be promoted by gender balance in politics. Boys shouldn’t go to school alone while girls are working; they must work and go to school together.
Find a project for street kids. Some of them are creative and can be very useful to the country and it’s my responsibility to satisfy everyone. Street kids must also be cared for and loved.
I would promote justice and remove corruption. There must also be abolition of classes so that people can get the same rights and feel free to talk or work together.
I would become friends with citizens because it is the best thing a king or queen can ever do for his/her citizens. With friendship all things are possible.
If you could throw a party and invite any 5 people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
1st person:Mother Teresa has always been my largest source of inspiration.
2nd Person: Anuradhakoirala – The Founder and director of Maiti Nepal (a non-profit organization in Nepal) dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking.
Her organization helped and rescued more than 12,000 women and girls from trafficking.
3rd person :My father and mother. My father taught me to treat everybody equally and fairly regardless of who they are in the totem pole of society. You know, there have been many times in my life where I felt like giving up but it was always my mother who actually took me out of that doomsday. She has been a constant source of positive vibes for me and I really make sure I never let her down.
Our parents invest so much in us. Their time, care, love and support, financial aid and almost everything goes into us but they never complain. In return they expect us to do well. But most of us fail to give them even that.
I know everyone is not good academically but at least you can try. Parents don’t only expect good results from their kids, they also want their child to grow into a better person and someday they expect the favours they did to us to be returned.
Start making your parents happy. Respect them. When the world is against you it is only parents who’ll not leave you alone. They’ll stand by your side till the very last breath. Parents are the biggest motivating factor in my life.
4th person – my daughter. I see the world through her eyes and discover there is much hope,opportunity and beauty around us. She is my constant reminder that life is no less rewarding outside the four walls of my office. With her I’m simply and happily Daddy.
5th person – A P J ABDUL KALAM was the 11th President of India and came to be known as missile man of India.
What drives you in life?
Hopes and dreams
What are your hopes and dreams for Goa?
My most important is for people to respect themselves. If we learn to respect ourselves, we will respect our peers, neighbors, environment, and streets.
Honesty is the best policy.
Stop relying on others to solve their problems.
Lifetime serving people with disability.
I’d love to see an end to the inequality between the haves and have nots.
Better health care for middle and lower class families.
We continue to work toward making things better for everyone.
Men and women treated equally.
Day to day crimes are increasing . I want everybody to live happily and fearlessly.
No more old age homes.
No more corruption.
I strongly think all of these hopes are not a dream. I have the confidence to help make these come true through my unremitting efforts.
Please tell us a secret or some secrets about yourself
Right now is the happiest I’ve ever been. I look forward to the future
Yes Helping Hands has just opened their new store in New Delhi near Rama Krishna Metro Station.
For more information on Dinesh and Yes, Helping Hands, click here.
To read about our previous Trailblazers, click below.