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After the devastating earthquake in 2015, we provided food, water, and first aid to families in desperate need. With ten Villages across Nepal and three in the crisis zone, we are continuing to deliver care to children separated from their families. … more about our charity work in Nepal

Challenging perceptions of disability in Nepal

Amrita at a disability advocacy event.
Amrita at a disability advocacy event.

When she was just three years old, Amrita Gyawali lost her entire family in a devastating traffic accident and was left severely disabled. Following the accident, she came into the care of SOS Children’s Village Jorpati in Nepal. Now 24, with the support from her SOS family, she has become the first wheelchair model in the country and is raising awareness of disability rights.

Until she was three, Amrita grew up in the Nawalparasi district in Nepal. A horrific bus accident killed her entire family – her parents, her brother and her sister, leaving her completely alone. As a result of the tragedy, Amrita suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) which meant she was bound to a wheelchair for life.

Two years later, Amrita moved into a new home at SOS Children’s Village Jorpati and met her SOS family for the first time. She says: “I remember very little about my first day at the SOS Children’s Village. I was happy and crying at the same time. I was given a new family - mother, brothers and sisters. I remember my childhood had various moments of joy and sorrow. But there was always love and care. I used to love playing with toys along with my brothers and sisters.”

Although Amrita enjoyed learning and going to school, her poor health meant that she often missed classes. SOS Children provided her with additional support to be able to study at home, and she passed her final school exams with top marks. As a teenager, Amrita moved into the Youth Home close to the Village, which prepares young adults for independent living. She continued her education at the National Integrated College of Dillibazar and graduated in 2009.

Amrita had grown up wanting to be a model, but felt that being physically disabled held her back. However, with the support of her family and her nurse, she approached a modelling agency and was invited to a photoshoot. She also got a part in a fashion show organised by the Namuna College of Fashion and Technology. She says: “At first, I felt a bit nervous because it is generally assumed that modelling is only meant for tall and slim people. But the support I got from people was reassuring. Now, people know me as the first wheelchair model in the history of Nepal!”Amrita from Nepal modelling

With the confidence she has gained from her modelling career, Amrita is keen to improve the rights and lives of those with disabilities in Nepal. She says: “In my experience, there is still a huge difference in society between people with and without disabilities. It is very difficult for us to get the same kind of opportunities as others, which means we have to face many problems every day. I wanted to contribute to make a change. So I involved myself in a number of activities aimed towards getting equal rights for people with disabilities.” Amrita has taken part in an international study programme titled ‘Global Challenges of Youth with disabilities’ held in Seoul, South Korea, and participated in the first South East Asia Conference on Accessible Tourism in Malaysia, contributing towards discussions about the rights of disabled people.

Alongside her modelling career and advocacy work, Amrita is now studying for a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology. She has ambitions of becoming a psychologist in the future, and is working hard to achieve this goal.

Find out more about our charity work in Nepal and how you can give children like Amrita a second chance in life through child sponsorship.