April 13, 2021
Interviews

The First Handicap Service Centre: An Interview With Pu Tha Uk

London, UK: March 9, 2006 [Chinland Gurdian Note: Pu Tha Uk, founder of Eden Handicap Service Centre (EHSC), Rangon, Burma finished his MA degree on disability studies from University of Leeds. The Eden Handicap Service Centre was established in April, 2000.

The centre is for physically and mentally disabled children, under 18 years and provides rehabilitation, education, and other services.

In the following interview with the Centre’s founder, Van Biak Thang of Chinland Guardian takes an inside look at Burma’s only charitable organization for disabled children, as well as a glimpse of how one of society’s most vulnerable members copes with life inside Burma.]

Chinland Guardian: Congratulations! Can you tell us more about your study?

Pu Tha Uk: Thank you. Well, through the British Chevening Scholarship program, I finished ‘Disability Studies’ under ‘Sociology and Social Policy’ at University of Leeds. It is about disability, disabled people’s movement and the struggles of disabled people for equal rights around the world, in other words, the disabled politics.

Chinland Guardian: How were you able to get this chance?

Pu Tha Uk: I was nominated for this candidate by Ms. Lilian Gyi, consultant from Eden Handicap Service Centre. And I did go through several interviews more than three times and some tests as well. Only two people including myself got this scholarship for 2004 from Burma.

Chinland Guardian: A bit more about EHSC, please?

Pu Tha Uk: At the beginning there were only 14 disabled children. Today we have more than 150 disabled children who are receiving necessary services through the centre in Rangon. Among them 80 are under Day Care centre and the rest under Outreach and Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program. At the moment we have 24 full-time staff in the centre.

Chinland Guardian: Are the children only Chins?

Pu Tha Uk: No, no. Out of 300 registered disabled children, there are only 10 Chins in the centre. And the centre is not under any church. By saying that, I mean the centre accepts any children regardless of their religions. This centre is for all physically and mentally disabled children.

Chinland Guardian: Is EHSC the first handicap centre in the country? How is its status in terms of permission and registration?

Pu Tha Uk: The centre is the only centre in its kind in the country as a local charity organization, NGO. We have applied for registration of the centre to the authority since the beginning but until today we have not got yet. In Burma, there are no legal rules and regulations, and laws for disabled people until today.

Chinland Guardian: So, what can you tell about the current situation of disabled people in Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: In Burma, there are very few organizations in both Government Organizations (GO) and NGOs. Compared to our neighbouring countries, we are lacking and lagging far behind. In my opinion, the quality of disabled people’s life is the simplest in all forms and the correct instrument to measure the country’s situation. In other words, their lives clearly reflect the country’s image.

Chinland Guardian: How big is the population of disabled people in Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: In Burma there were no official figures about disabled people. According to the census made by British colonials before independence, only some kinds of disability were mentioned under infirmities. After independence, the census made by the government never mentions about the population of disabled people in the country. Until today, we have no official figures of the population of disabled people in Burma.

Chinland Guardian: Do you have any educational or related backgrounds in this particular field? What do you think is needed for it?

Pu Tha Uk: In 1985, I finished physiotherapy from Institute of Para-medical Sciences, Rangoon after graduating in 1981. I worked as a physiotherapist under the Ministry of Health in Burma for more than seven years and one year at Spastic Children Association of Penang, Malaysia and two years at St. Luke’s Hospital for the Elderly, Singapore. These experiences really help me to start this centre. But, the most important thing is to have a clear vision before we start and after starting, we need a full commitment to the work.

Chinland Guardian: What would it be if you are to say the most difficult part of the work?

Pu Tha Uk: Actually, I think it depends on how much commitment you have to your work. If we do the work with commitment and joy, there are no such things as difficulties. Any work, both small and big, is the same to me as long as we call it ‘work’. In the centre, the biggest problem we have faced until today though is lack of related experts and professions in this field. There are no qualified occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers and so on. It is impossible to give related quality services without any related skills and knowledge.

Chinland Guardian: Any differences or changes on you before and after studying this course?

Pu Tha Uk: Of course, yes. Before the course, my scope of understanding disability was very limited and now it has changed greatly after studying at University of Leeds. I had no ideas how to link disability with human rights, poverty and development issues but it is clear now.

Chinland Guardian: To what extent can the word ‘disabled’ include in a society?

Pu Tha Uk: If somebody is excluded from society by disabling barriers because of his or her impairment, then he becomes disabled person.

Chinland Guardian: Studying in the UK for two years, what is your comparison on disabled people between this country and Burma? And what would be your suggestions on this for Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: Disabled people from UK are now included in society as equally as a citizen but in Burma disabled people are still totally excluded from mainstream society.

Most importantly, we need to have laws for disabled people in Burma. My desire for disabled people in Burma is acceptance with dignity and respect by non-disabled people. I think we all need to value their human life as the Lord has seen them. And one important thing I would like to request is that we need to be careful about our ways and styles of life because sometimes most people practices discrimination without realizing it by themselves.

Chinland Guardian: What about the gap between disabled and non-disabled people in Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: So far, in my opinion, most of disabled people in Burma are experiencing discrimination in their daily lives in many ways. It is very sad to discover that the family members and relatives are sometimes the ones who treat them badly.

Chinland Guardian: What is the main reason that causes people disabled in Burma and can it be prevented?

Pu Tha Uk: There are many kinds of disabilities. Malnutrition is one of the main causes in developing countries. In western countries, there are no cerebral palsied (c.p) children caused by jaundice but in Burma more than half of cerebral palsied children are victims of jaundice. Of course, it can be prevented.

Chinland Guardian: By the way, what actually made you start this work? What else can you tell us about it?

Pu Tha Uk: It is very clear for me that the Lord calls me for this humanitarian work. As a family, my wife agrees and supports me with her whole heart and it is my strength in early days of struggle.

In our country, there are so much humanitarian work to do. I believe that the Lord has preserved a promise land (to do humanitarian work with disabled people) to be possessed by His beloved children in Burma today. So let us serve the Lord by doing what He wants us to do.

Chinland Guardian: Thank you so much for your time.

Pu Tha Uk: You’re welcome.

The First Handicap Service Centre:

An Interview With Pu Tha Uk

Chinland Guardian

London, UK: March 9, 2006

[Chinland Gurdian Note: Pu Tha Uk, founder of Eden Handicap Service Centre (EHSC), Rangon, Burma finished his MA degree on disability studies from University of Leeds. The Eden Handicap Service Centre was established in April, 2000. The centre is for physically and mentally disabled children, under 18 years and provides rehabilitation, education, and other services.

In the following interview with the Centre’s founder, Van Biak Thang of Chinland Guardian takes an inside look at Burma’s only charitable organization for disabled children, as well as a glimpse of how one of society’s most vulnerable members copes with life inside Burma.]

Chinland Guardian: Congratulations! Can you tell us more about your study?

Pu Tha Uk: Thank you. Well, through the British Chevening Scholarship program, I finished ‘Disability Studies’ under ‘Sociology and Social Policy’ at University of Leeds. It is about disability, disabled people’s movement and the struggles of disabled people for equal rights around the world, in other words, the disabled politics.

Chinland Guardian: How were you able to get this chance?

Pu Tha Uk: I was nominated for this candidate by Ms. Lilian Gyi, consultant from Eden Handicap Service Centre. And I did go through several interviews more than three times and some tests as well. Only two people including myself got this scholarship for 2004 from Burma.

Chinland Guardian: A bit more about EHSC, please?

Pu Tha Uk: At the beginning there were only 14 disabled children. Today we have more than 150 disabled children who are receiving necessary services through the centre in Rangon. Among them 80 are under Day Care centre and the rest under Outreach and Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program. At the moment we have 24 full-time staff in the centre.

Chinland Guardian: Are the children only Chins?

Pu Tha Uk: No, no. Out of 300 registered disabled children, there are only 10 Chins in the centre. And the centre is not under any church. By saying that, I mean the centre accepts any children regardless of their religions. This centre is for all physically and mentally disabled children.

Chinland Guardian: Is EHSC the first handicap centre in the country? How is its status in terms of permission and registration?

Pu Tha Uk: The centre is the only centre in its kind in the country as a local charity organization, NGO. We have applied for registration of the centre to the authority since the beginning but until today we have not got yet. In Burma, there are no legal rules and regulations, and laws for disabled people until today.

Chinland Guardian: So, what can you tell about the current situation of disabled people in Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: In Burma, there are very few organizations in both Government Organizations (GO) and NGOs. Compared to our neighbouring countries, we are lacking and lagging far behind. In my opinion, the quality of disabled people’s life is the simplest in all forms and the correct instrument to measure the country’s situation. In other words, their lives clearly reflect the country’s image.

Chinland Guardian: How big is the population of disabled people in Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: In Burma there were no official figures about disabled people. According to the census made by British colonials before independence, only some kinds of disability were mentioned under infirmities. After independence, the census made by the government never mentions about the population of disabled people in the country. Until today, we have no official figures of the population of disabled people in Burma.

Chinland Guardian: Do you have any educational or related backgrounds in this particular field? What do you think is needed for it?

Pu Tha Uk: In 1985, I finished physiotherapy from Institute of Para-medical Sciences, Rangoon after graduating in 1981. I worked as a physiotherapist under the Ministry of Health in Burma for more than seven years and one year at Spastic Children Association of Penang, Malaysia and two years at St. Luke’s Hospital for the Elderly, Singapore. These experiences really help me to start this centre. But, the most important thing is to have a clear vision before we start and after starting, we need a full commitment to the work.

Chinland Guardian: What would it be if you are to say the most difficult part of the work?

Pu Tha Uk: Actually, I think it depends on how much commitment you have to your work. If we do the work with commitment and joy, there are no such things as difficulties. Any work, both small and big, is the same to me as long as we call it ‘work’. In the centre, the biggest problem we have faced until today though is lack of related experts and professions in this field. There are no qualified occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers and so on. It is impossible to give related quality services without any related skills and knowledge.

Chinland Guardian: Any differences or changes on you before and after studying this course?

Pu Tha Uk: Of course, yes. Before the course, my scope of understanding disability was very limited and now it has changed greatly after studying at University of Leeds. I had no ideas how to link disability with human rights, poverty and development issues but it is clear now.

Chinland Guardian: To what extent can the word ‘disabled’ include in a society?

Pu Tha Uk: If somebody is excluded from society by disabling barriers because of his or her impairment, then he becomes disabled person.

Chinland Guardian: Studying in the UK for two years, what is your comparison on disabled people between this country and Burma? And what would be your suggestions on this for Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: Disabled people from UK are now included in society as equally as a citizen but in Burma disabled people are still totally excluded from mainstream society.

Most importantly, we need to have laws for disabled people in Burma. My desire for disabled people in Burma is acceptance with dignity and respect by non-disabled people. I think we all need to value their human life as the Lord has seen them. And one important thing I would like to request is that we need to be careful about our ways and styles of life because sometimes most people practices discrimination without realizing it by themselves.

Chinland Guardian: What about the gap between disabled and non-disabled people in Burma?

Pu Tha Uk: So far, in my opinion, most of disabled people in Burma are experiencing discrimination in their daily lives in many ways. It is very sad to discover that the family members and relatives are sometimes the ones who treat them badly.

Chinland Guardian: What is the main reason that causes people disabled in Burma and can it be prevented?

Pu Tha Uk: There are many kinds of disabilities. Malnutrition is one of the main causes in developing countries. In western countries, there are no cerebral palsied (c.p) children caused by jaundice but in Burma more than half of cerebral palsied children are victims of jaundice. Of course, it can be prevented.

Chinland Guardian: By the way, what actually made you start this work? What else can you tell us about it?

Pu Tha Uk: It is very clear for me that the Lord calls me for this humanitarian work. As a family, my wife agrees and supports me with her whole heart and it is my strength in early days of struggle.

In our country, there are so much humanitarian work to do. I believe that the Lord has preserved a promise land (to do humanitarian work with disabled people) to be possessed by His beloved children in Burma today. So let us serve the Lord by doing what He wants us to do.

Chinland Guardian: Thank you so much for your time.

Pu Tha Uk: You’re welcome.

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