Shifting the Focus of the Disability Program

From a Medical Approach to Community-Based Rehabilitation

The YHS disability program began in 2008, and has focused on finding and registering the disabled people in all the villages, training our staff, providing medical treatment (surgery and physiotherapy) and mobility aids, mentoring and community strengthening to assist in community-based rehabilitation.

We started data collection in four villages, and expanded to all the villages in Sumba Barat Daya.  From 2014 to early 2016 we cooperated with other local charities (Yayasans Bahtera, Satu Visi and Wali Ati) and the local government, to find and register many of the disabled people over the whole of Sumba.

Members of the YHS team received physiotherapy training from our VSO volunteer Val Esteves in 2008 and 2009, from Bakti Luhur Foundation, Malang, in 2010, basic training in community development by Yayasan Sejahtera Indonesia in 2009 and training in the assembly, fitting to their new owners and maintenance of wheelchairs donated by Wheelchairs4Kids in 2016 and 2017.

In cooperation with the Karitas Hospital in Waitabula, from 2009 the YHS physiotherapy team travelled each week to give therapy to children with  cerebral palsy in seven villages (Kadi Pada, Kalembu Kaha, Wee Kokora, Lombu, Lete Konda, Karuni and Weepangali).

Each year when the hospitals in Waitabula and Waikabubak bring in overseas teams of doctors to provide cataract and cleft palate surgery, YHS registers dozens of patients from far-away villages and physically transports the patients to and from the hospitals for pre-screening and for the operations.

YHS has sent many patients needing serious surgical operations to Bali and Jakarta hospitals.  This  entails obtaining government medical insurance cards,  national ID cards for patients, referrals from local clinics to the Karitas Hospital and from there to the hospitals in Bali and Jakarta, as well as permission for the patients to travel.   YHS provides air tickets and money for food and lodging for the patients and accompanying adults when the family is indigent.

Since 2014 YHS has facilitated:

  • five operations to repair facial meningoceles deformations (in collaboration with the Bali Smile Foundation)
  • very serious orthopedic surgery for children people (in collaboration with Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak (YKPA) Bali
  • plastic surgery for 5 people (with YKPA Bali and Yayasan Sinar Pelangi, Jakarta)
  • hydrocephalus operations for 2 people (with Yayasan Sinar Pelangi, Jakarta)
  • physiotherapy for 20 people (5 people sent to YAKKUM Yogyakarta and 15 people treated locally by YHS staff.

With the extraordinary help of Rotary Club of Moorleigh Moorabbin, District 9810, Victoria Australia and Wheelchairs4Kids in Australia, YHS has received 70 very strong wheelchairs suitable for the terrain and circumstances, to children in isolated villages, and regularly visits these villages to ensure they are maintained and used properly, and are adjusted for the growing children.

A second shipment of 70 wheelchairs arrived for YHS in September 2018 and will be life-changing for the 70 pre-screened children waiting for them.

Change of Focus in the Disability Program

 While the above programs will all continue, YHS has changed its focus somewhat from being purely medical help and equipment towards empowerment of  of disabled people among their communities.  The long term goal is that people with disabilities are able to fight for their own rights and welfare.  Many of them are highly motivated and have a great capacity to learn, but have never had the opportunity.

The program to date was the first step to overcome some of the physical problems of people with disabilities.  Other obstacles that need to be overcome are the inaccessibility of public facilities, no possibility of education or employment opportunities and no access to healthcare, and other rights of citizens, and exclusion from the social life of the community.

In order to realize greater independence for people with disabilities, we aim to provide them with the knowledge and skills they need.   Removing the many obstacles, teaching skills and increasing their confidence in their capacities will open opportunities for people with disabilities to be actively involved, take on new roles and benefit from their own development.

This new focus includes giving the disabled people and their whole communities an awareness of rights of the disabled, training in vocational skills, entrepreneurship and leadership, access to capital and business facilities, and policy advocacy.

These activities are carried out with the principle of: placing people with disabilities as people  effecting change (people-led development), inclusive (all parties are involved) and community based. For us, this is the essence of a community-based rehabilitation approach.