Detail Company Introduction
In late 1977, six students were returning home from a university library in Jaffna when they were brutally attacked by a group of thirty youths armed with bicycle chains, knives and a pistol. One of the students, Mr R.S. Marasinghe, was whipped in the face with bicycle chains before being stabbed in the abdomen with a knife, leaving him paralysed and confined to a wheelchair.
After being released from hospital a year and a half later, Mr Marasinghe found himself encountering endless discrimination from potential employers and the general public. Mr Marasinghe worked in several jobs over the following years while he tried to gain compensation from the government. During this time, he observed other disabled people around him being discriminated against, and when he received a sympathetic payment from the government in 1981, Mr Marasinghe, along with fourteen other disabled people he had met while in hospital, used the money to start up an organisation for disabled people.
Nineteen years later “The Central Council Of Disabled Persons” (CCODP) has increased its assistance to over 20,000 disabled and under-privileged people throughout Sri Lanka. The remaining founders of the CCODP are working with affiliated disabled organisations which, combined with the CCODP, form an umbrella of twelve organisations. Recent survey figures show that 7.4% of the population are disabled and the percentage growth of the disabled population in Sri Lanka is higher than the normal growth by 0.04%. While there are many organisations that concentrate on the rehabilitation of disabled people, the CCODP’s aim is to reintegrate them into the community.
In Sri Lanka many people still consider it to be bad luck if they encounter a disabled person. The CCODP is helping to dispel this myth through awareness programs in schools and by involving the local community in their projects. In March 1999, a group of around 200 volunteers including school prefects and cadets, helped 44 disabled people climb to the top of Adam’s Peak, including 11 wheelchair-bound people who were carried. The friendly participation of tourists and pilgrims has encouraged the CCODP to organise similar events in the future.
Training programs also provide much needed confidence for disabled people and provide them with the necessary skills for independence and confidence. The Enterprises Development Program (EDP) was created in 1992 to generate income for the CCODP through the sale of furniture and wheelchairs, in order for it to remain largely self-reliant. Disabled and disadvantaged adults are trained in carpentry, metalwork and sewing and if they complete the training successfully they may be offered a loan generated by the sales, in order to set up their own business. New technology is constantly being developed to produce wheelchairs that suit different types of people, and in 1998 a two-in-one wheelchair was produced that has a removable wheel on the front for easier manoeuvrability outdoors. The focus of this program is on promoting self-sufficiency for both the CCODP and disabled and disadvantaged people, by developing their skills, teaching them self-respect and encouraging them to look at problems and develop solutions. More than forty disabled people have successfully set up their own businesses, due to the loans scheme. Another twenty-two people have received sewing machines, thirty-six have received wheelchairs and twenty women have been placed in leadership roles. The project was funded by the Ceylon-Direkthilfe Organisation, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the British High Commission and the European Commission, but is now running mainly on profits from the sale of the items produced.
While women are included in the EDP, it has been found that there is a greater need to help them in their homes. Surveys have been conducted to identify the number of disabled women in rural areas and the resulting figures show that there is a strong need for community based rehabilitation (CBR) directed at women. House visits are currently made as part of the CBR to create links with other disabled people and to teach families how to care for disabled family members. Many disabled people in rural areas think that they are the only ones afflicted. CBR provides a support network and teaches women how to take control of their lives and identify their skills.
A number of women around the age of forty, who possess sufficient vocational skills, have been selected for a village clinic that will conduct a training program on how to set up successful self-employment. Women who show competent abilities will be recommended for a self-employment loan.
The year 2000 has seen the appearance of several new programs at the CCODP that will provide a much wider range of vocational training, thereby increasing the opportunities for disabled people. An English and computer-training centre currently run by an Australian volunteer gives disabled and disadvantaged young adults a better chance of finding employment. The computer-training centre currently has ten students, many of whom are living in the hostel at the CCODP until they complete their training. While some of the students suffer the effects of diseases such as polio and osteogenesis imperfecta, others have lost members of their family to the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka, and are studying rigorously in order to find a job to support the remaining family members.
An Environmental Development Advisory position, also filled by an Australian volunteer, has been created to prepare and implement an environmental plan for a forty-acre plot of land at Ridiamaliyadda donated by the local provincial council in 1990. What began as a monoculture-revegetation project has since developed into a five-year plan that will address the issues of biodiversity rehabilitation and reforestation. The project’s main goals are to improve the quality of life for the disabled people of Ridiamaliyadda, while simultaneously restoring the native biodiversity of this rural environment. Local disabled people will be selected and trained to plant tree-dominated plots based on an assortment of plant species that produce food crops, firewood, timber, medicinal crops, and other natural products. The mature plot will approximate a natural forest in structure and complexity, provide economically viable and environmentally sound opportunities for raising rural incomes, restore degraded land, preserve native biodiversity and in the future will serve as a public education site for the general public (especially school children) and potentially an ecotourism site once developed. The project is based on research and a model “Forest Garden” developed over the last fifteen years by the NeoSynthesis Research Centre in Mirahawatte, Sri Lanka. Funding is currently being sought and the first stages of the project will begin once this has been finalised.
Later this year the CCODP will begin a Research and Development Program, funded by the UN Voluntary Fund on Disability, to conduct studies into the situation of disabled people in Sri Lanka, to act as a source of information and to act as a body of legislators to enforce correct programs. Research officers have been selected from local candidates and advised by a group of lecturers in sociology.
The growth of the CCODP over the last seventeen years can be attributed to the dedication and determination of its founder, committed staff, continuous help from volunteers and the funding bodies who have provided assistance to the many programs that have been developed. With future assistance the CCODP will continue to expand its services to disabled men, women and children around the country, constantly striving to keep these people off the streets begging and encouraging them to take control of their lives.
Unfortunately, due to market fluctuations, orders from overseas and within Sri Lanka have dropped dramatically leaving the workshop crew with very little work. The CCODP is constantly seeking new customers and benefactors.
The CCODP is an organisation that believes a disability is merely a temporary setback to leading a relatively normal life, and that with determination and hard work, disadvantaged and disabled people can make an important contribution to society. In the 23 years that have passed since that fateful evening in Jaffna, Mr. Marasinghe’s determination and unassuming efficiency have embodied that very philosophy!
The CCODP can be contacted on phone: +94 57 22698 fax: +94 57 22701 or email: email@example.com. The mailing address is PO Box 5, Kinigama Road, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka.
Environmental Development & Public Education