I am always in awe of people who seem to face crippling hardship in their lives and at the same time show such a ferocious energy, spirit and love of that life, however tough it becomes. Koshalya was one of those people. Her beaming smile and quick wit was infectious. It wasn't long before Mike, the staff from the local charity, other women from Koshalya's self-help group and I were laughing and smiling too.
Koshalya is the President of her Self-Help Group, she has many friends in the community, she collects wood from the forest nearby, she has a dream to open a small shop which sells chocolate and she'd like to buy a goat. She is also completely blind, lives in a small dark mud hut and has an alcoholic husband who drinks away his meager earnings each month. She tells me all of these details in a matter of fact way. Her beaming smile remains on her face throughout.
The Disability Self-Help Group Koshalya belongs to is a lifeline for her. She has no children or other family in the village and the group is where she receives and gives advice and support. All her friends are from this group. It is thanks to a local charity that Koshalya has a toilet, gas connection and disability pension money. I cannot begin to think how difficult is was before for Koshalya to use the toilet in a field and cook using an outside fire stove each night before this help.
We watch Koshalya conduct a Self help group meeting. All the other women stop nattering and listen in. She is clearly respected within the group and the field worker from the charity tells us that she is a strong leader and decision maker for the group. The role suits Koshalya and as she explains the rules of the group to a new member, I can see that she will have a positive impact on the mindsets and confidence of the others in the group.