Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 10 (May 29) - The Accra Rehabilitation Center

This morning we walked to the Accra Rehabilitation Center near our hotel. This is a government run institution for men with disabilities. They are supposed to get government funding to continue providing services, but this has not been the case. The center is run by Tingo, the director, who has dedicated his entire life to the residents. He works 24/7 without pay, help or respite. He earns a small salary without overtime. However, his outlook is positive and he believes things will get better for "disabled persons." He stated, "if you are not god fearing you cannot do this work for long. If you treat individuals with disabilities well, then you will get something." Even without a salary, he has job satisfaction with all that he can do for his clients. He provides for them which makes him happy. Tingo is truly inspiring.
He explained to us that they do not get any money from the government. Therefore, he has to require clients to pay about $40 Ghana cedes for 1 year. Most individuals are unable to pay. The enrollment, or way of admission, is such that individuals cannot just walk in the doors. They have to visit the social welfare office where someone will then write a social welfare investigation report. In this report, the individual must provide information dating back to prenatal care. Obviously this is not always possible....
They also need to know how the disability occurred, family relations, environment, and all personal information. Then once this report has been filed, the individuals must get a full medical report from a government hospital. Visits to the doctor or hospital are often very expensive and many of the people have no way of getting there.

The clients of the Accra Rehabilitation Center (ARC) must have a person backing them who can be available to come to the center to help with their personal care. This is not a dumping ground and clients are expected have outside support. Many people do not have families and have been begging on the streets previously. These individuals are instructed to find a fiend, organization or anyone to sponsor them. This method is due to the fact that if they have nowhere to go when they leave the ARC then it is defeating the purpose of the center: to train individuals for jobs.

Many beggars with disabilities make enough money to send their kids to the best private schools and care for their spouse at home. So if they remove them from the street to complete the 3 year program at the ARC, who will care for their families? This is further complicated by the fact that at spouses and children cannot stay with their husbands during the 3 year stay. Spouses must learn to function independently without anyone to help in case of a divorce, death or illness. Spouses are expected to do everything on their own while the men are at the ARC.
An additional challenge at the ARC is the lack of staff. There is no money to hire employees to help in the areas that they may need help (such as ADLs). Therefore, friends, spouses, hired workers must come each day to help with bathing, toileting, etc. An there is no training for families while men are at the ARC or during the transitional period. The director is the only professional on the premises and he states that the goal for the men is learning how to care for themselves as best as possible. The reasoning behind this is - if the men cannot do anything at home then they are worthless to their families. With the training they get at the ARC, they can function at home. It is simple training but there is no follow up available to graduates of the program.
Follow-up is limited not only by the lack of funds but the lack of transportation. There is not way to get to the families in order to check in on them to see how many are working, or have gone back to begging. Therefore data on success rates are unavailable.
The vocational training offered at the ARC includes dressmaking, carpentry and shoe-making. However, many of these trades are becoming outdated. Tingo explained that they need a computer laboratory. He said that all jobs want you to be computer literate and it is easy to get a good job if you can work with a computer. If one of the clients cannot make shoes, but if they have a computer, he can write to others to see what he can do. In addition to being able to use a computer, repair of TVs, radios and air conditioners would be a marketable skill as well.
Tingo is correct in his assumption that as society changes, the vocational training must change too. There are several companies in Ghana that are starting to make their facilities handicapped accessible. Tingo thinks that the individuals with disabilities should get jobs here. If other individuals with disabilities and the general public see that these people can do these things, the hiring will increase and more individuals with disabilities will be inspired to work.
We asked Tingo how easy it would be for us to ship him some supplies – his answer was surprising. Apparently the materials shipped must be addressed to an institution, not to a post office box or to a specific individual. Unless you are a registered company, taxes to pick up packages may cost as much as a car.

Out of anywhere we visited, this facility is obviously the one in the most need for supplies, money and expertise.
After a long morning and another delicious meal at Paloma, Jessica and I decided to go back to one of the markets we had previously visited, Macola Market. This is one of the largest open air markets and yes it is huge. We were dropped off in the middle and I’m glad we made it out! Our mission was to buy more fabric and that we did! I have plenty of fabric now to recover several pieces of furniture in my house and donate some too.

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