“Qualified rehabilitation professionals are in short supply in Bolivia with very few training courses, particularly outside the capital,” explains Narel Gomez, Handicap International’s rehabilitation project manager. “One of our top priorities is to boost the skills of professionals working in the sector and to help people with disabilities become more self-reliant and integrated in their communities.”
More than 2,800 people have benefited from the seven rehabilitation centers located in the regions of Potosí and Oruro. Handicap International trains health professionals–doctors and physical therapists–to assess an individual’s mobility and pain level. Handicap International also works to improve rehabilitation techniques and management skills.
“We make sure centers are accessible to all–particularly people with disabilities–by building access ramps, installing lifting devices, and fitting individuals with special equipment," Narel states. "Rehabilitation staff need training to learn how to build trust between themselves and the individual. We place a particular emphasis on women and girls, who also have a right to these services. We also support mothers of disabled children to prevent them from feeling guilty and to help them accept their situation."
Handicap International set up a community-based outlet for people with disabilities in each rehabilitation center to talk with others and take part in activities. “We want people with disabilities to be actors and to raise awareness of disability," Narel explains. "To us, the rehabilitation process has to have a social dimension. That includes providing psychological support to people with disabilities so they can express their feelings and overcome their trauma.”