Program changing lives of people living with a disability

For the past two and half years, physiotherapists Ros and Ben have been travelling to Churches of Christ Medical Santo, on the island of Santo in Northern Vanuatu volunteering their time and skills to provide support to the local communities.

Since April 2018, they have been involved with the Community-Based Rehabilitation Program for People Living with a Disability. The program, funded by donations made to Global Mission Partners for Medical Santo, aimed to identify 280 people who are living with a disability across communities on the islands, ranging from young children to the elderly, and provide rehabilitative care. Ros and Ben developed the program following multiple visits to Medical Santo, and by travelling out to rural communities to understand the needs of the local people in caring for people living with a disability.

Vanuatu locals employed as field workers

Four Santo locals (Atrine, Alfred, Netty and Charlie) have been employed as field workers in the program. They have been trained to identify, monitor, provide advice, care for and support individuals living with a disability and their families, while also working in consultation with other stakeholders and service providers. This is a fantastic opportunity for these locals to increase their skills, one of whom lives with a disability themselves.

On the islands of Santo and Malekula in Northern Vanuatu, there were very few existing service to cater for individuals living with a disability or their families. According to the World Health Organisation, people living with a disability and their families in developing nations suffer extra economic and social disadvantage because of lack of services and stigmas around disability. This results in families slipping into cycles of poverty and abuse, which impacts the family for generations to come.

Through the program, community members are also educated about disability, reducing stigma and showing how they can help someone living with a disability, and how simply accepting the person living with a disability and their family as contributing members of the community can have a significant impact. Community acceptance of people living with a disability provides a powerful emotion that contributes to their ongoing health and wellbeing.

For many people with a disability living in rural areas, they are rarely visited by healthcare professional, and for some who were born with a disability they have never accessed the health system and may be unaware of the support they can receive. Through this program, they are linked with other local organisations to receive the support they require.

There have been wonderful outcomes from the program, with follow-up consultations revealing how simple changes and contact with the appropriate supports can change the lives of people with a disability and their families.

Ros and Ben have just completed a three month visit to Santo, training the local field workers and networking with local partner organisations. Funding is currently being sought to deliver this valuable program past December.

The program is also supported by medical, allied health and nursing professionals in the Medical Santo Clinic, giving the service amazing opportunities to change people’s lives and making them somewhat unique in Santo to have this all happening under the one roof.

Donate today to support the work of Churches of Christ Medical Santo. Call 1800 600 900, visit www.cofc.com.au/give or email give@medicalsanto.com.

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Posted September 21, 2018 in Networking blog