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A view over a misty river in Bangladesh
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Everyday campus heroes: The Humanitarian Engineer

22 October 2018
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an everyday campus hero!
Living among us are a handful of secret superheroes who use their powers for the greater good of our campuses. They’re the everyday heroes who make our University community truly special.

Meet Tarkeshwar Singh, a third year biomedical engineering student going above and beyond the call of duty by using the skills he is learning in his degree to create clever ways to help children with cerebral palsy in rural Bangladesh. Not for extra credit, but because he wants to make a difference.

What started out as internship with Westmead Children’s hospital as part of his degree quickly turned into a passion. It took Tarkeshwar on a self-funded trip to rural Bangaldesh, where a visit to the field activities of the Bangladesh CP Register run by CSF Global in small village called Shahjadpur sparked inspiration to start a project to help the community.

Tarkeshwar standing on Eastern Ave

So, tell us about your project

Tarkeshwar: “The goal is to design walkers for the children which can be built for under $10. The walkers available here in Australia are state of the art and cost around $700 - $800, which is just not something people from poorer countries can afford.”

“I remember there was a little boy who had a faulty walker made out of welded steel bars but he couldn’t use it because it was falling apart and the wheels were rusted. Instead he sat on the floor and had to crawl through dirt to move around.”

“I came back to Australia and decided to do something practical to help the children in Bangledesh living in this situation.”

These people don’t have much but they have some of the biggest hearts that I’ve come across. They’ll invite you into their homes and treat you like family. Just really nice loving people.

What is cerebral palsy?

Tarkeshwar: “Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development, which usually occurs after birth. It impairs their motor skills, which can range from individuals being able to walk with minimal assistance to being completely dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.”

“Assistive devices, like the walkers or wheelchairs, play a crucial role in the early development of a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It provides freedom, confidence and also prevents long-term detrimental physical progression.”

So you finished your internship, but continued the project?

Tarkeshwar: “Yes, going over to Bangladesh and meeting the struggling children and families, and seeing the below average facilities available to them was a really eye-opening experience. It’s also one that has influenced what I want to do with my career. These people don’t have much but they have some of the biggest hearts that I’ve come across. They’ll invite you into their homes and treat you like family. Just really nice loving people.”

“My internship was only three months, but after seeing the impact that a relatively small amount of effort and resourcing can have, I decided to continue working on the project back in Australia.”

“I’m currently developing manuals and handbooks to send to Bangladesh so that local physios and rehabilitation centres can build their own equipment for under $10 and help local people.”

What’s life like for these kids in Bangledesh?

Tarkeshwar: “Some of the biggest challenges faced by these people is a lack of resources and funds. In Bangladesh, the average cost of a wheelchair is $200, basic walker aids cost around $150 and simple walkers are around $50.”

“Another challenge is a lack of understanding. The parents and physios understand what cerebral palsy is, but the greater community doesn’t, they definitely treat people with disabilities quiet differently.”

“Kids can’t get out and participate in everyday activities and are often excluded from the community.”

And the most important thing you’ve learnt?

Tarkeshwar: “Everyone’s got a part to play. Even small projects can make a difference, I’m just an undergrad and this isn’t a very big project but it can make a really big difference to people’s lives.”

I always wanted to get into medicine and engineering but using these skills to contribute to society helped me find my passion, humanitarian engineering, and now I know I want to continue doing things like this in the future.”

How can people help?

Tarkeshwar: “All the donations we receive from the GoFundMe page will go towards providing walkers and wheelchairs to the children at the rehabilitation centres, as well as helping to pay for physio classes and workshops.”

“It will really help give these children a sense of independence, freedom and self-confidence.”

 

Tarkeshwar plans to go back to Bangladesh and visit the centres at the end of the year so he can see how the walkers he designed are helping the community. But for now he’s got exams to focus on. Everyday campus heroes – they’re just like us.

Do you know an everyday campus hero? Let us know.

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