September 27

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Entering the world of disability… Changing Attitudes

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It was looking my first official day at Lusaka and  I was very excited to join the office but got info that there will be two days holidays. So, I have started my journey with Holidays. However, it was quite relaxing. Finally, the day came for my official joining and my Induction started. My Supervisor (Director) started inducting me for disabilities and issues. During the conversation, I realized my unnoticed disability in this perspective. I was shocked. If I miss my spectacles, I will not be able to perform my routine job. Many thoughts were running in my mind, what if we become technologically or digitally disabled. It’s Horrible picture as we all became so dependent on technology in every part of our life.

Anyway, come to official definitions, as per WHO- An impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function. A disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being. Children/persons who are affected in this way by illness and have difficulty doing the same things that other do are said to have disability.

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In the past, people used to believe that the reason, people with disabilities had Problems, was because they had something wrong with their bodies or their minds. In order to help, doctors would try to correct what was wrong if they could. Often there was nothing the doctors could do. Then the person would feel very unhappy because it was their fault they couldn’t do things like others. This old way of looking at disability is called the medical model.

Instead of looking at what is wrong with the person, we should look at what is wrong with the social and physical environment that prevents someone participating fully. This is called the social model of disability. Just because someone may have something physically wrong with their bodies, doesn’t mean they are disabled. People become “Actually Disabled” due to negative attitude of family/Society and environmental factors. So, It is often better to try and change the environment or people’s attitudes than it is to try and physically change the person.

My NGO, Cheshire Homes Society of Zambia (CHSZ) affiliated to Leonard Cheshire, has five core functions which include- education, health, inclusion, work and income and child protection. These functions seek to ensure that persons with disabilities are supported to achieve their rights to education, employment, sustainable livelihood, healthcare and other basic services. Few of the Major projects driven by CHSZ are- Child Empowerment, Young Voices project, Inclusive Education, Community based Rehabilitation etc.

Community based Rehabilitation is not a new approach but the question remains for implementation. The strength of CBR programs is that they can be made available in rural areas, with limited infrastructure, as program leadership is not restricted to professionals in healthcare, educational, Physiotherapy , Occupational therapy vocational or social services. Rather, CBR programs involve the people with disabilities themselves, their families and communities, as well as appropriate professionals. At CHSZ, we are rigorously implementing CBR approach.

I have lot’s of Personal and professional experiences as of now. I gained experience of NGO functioning by visiting Cheshire homes, Youth Community Training center and even Correctional service, working on Call proposals for funding, meeting with DPOs (Disabled Person Organizations) and government officials, interacting with children with disabilities and their parents etc.

For the first time, I got exposed to Braille language. This is a language used by people having vision impairment or blindness. This language is in form of raised dots which represent letters and digits. The access to this material is very expensive and it’s a challenge for education of Children with disabilities (CwDs).

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On personal front also, I learned a lot. Biggest personal achievement is that I am a very good cook now. Since I am almost* exclusive Vegetarian fellow (*sometimes egg), I face lots of difficulty in my initial 9 days of stay at hotel. I was not able to find out sufficient Veg food as Menu was full of Bacon, fish, beef, Chicken. I managed to have few items by training the chef. Thanks to my trainer (my wife) to train me for cooking. However Now, I am ready to give her competition.

It was good experience to meet lots of Indian people. I got opportunity to attend two Hindu (My Religion) celebrations in Lusaka- Sri Jagannath Rath Yatra and Sri Krishna Janmashtami. It given me feeling to be in India. Many Indians are running business here so some time, I don’t really feel of being in Africa. I got opportunity to Visit Agricultural and Commercial show in Lusaka which was an awesome experience and i could increased my understanding about Zambia.

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In my Project assignment, I am a part of many activities of CHSZ and the newly started project on Inclusive Education. I will share more info on this in my next blog otherwise my blog will look like a newspaper. Pl keep reading my blogs… need your love.

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