Ageing and Disability Focal Points – providing the essential link

I’m in the Philippines, near the coast on Panay Island, and good internet connections seem few and far between. In a way we’re so busy that it’s a not so bad to have no email for a day or two (don’t tell anyone I said that), but I’ve so much I want to share!

It’s almost five months since typhoon Haiyan tore across this beautiful country, destroying homes and lives. With our partners here, CBM provided essential relief supplies in the beginning, ensuring that people with disabilities were not forgotten, and are now working on longer term recovery and rehabilitation.

A man (using crutches as he is an above-knee amputee) next to a banner saying Aging and Disability Focal Point

Santy Villanueva (ADFP Community Organiser) in Estancia

You remember my colleague David Lewis talking about the Ageing and Disability Focal Points¬† being set up by CBM and our partner¬†Association of Disabled People (ADPI). Here, in the coastal towns of Concepcion and Estancia, in Iloilo province, I’m seeing them in action.

Their goal – if I can take a second to explain – is to make sure that people with disabilities and older people receive the services they need. To maximise resources they do this by identifying the services that exist (noting what they can provide), and the people with the needs (noting what these are). Types of support include help in finding work (livelihood), rebuilding homes, assistive devices, etc… They can then efficiently act as a specialised ‘middle man’, and as well as improving the lives of the individual people, they will improve the awareness of disability inclusion in the existing ‘mainstream’ services.

But enough of the theory…

A manusing a laptop to show a database to a small group of people

Merlin (database creator for the Ageing and Disability Focal Points, ADFPs) gives a brief demo of the system to the visiting CBM staff

On Tuesday we met the ‘tech’ guy (Merlin), who delighted in explaining the database system they’ve developed to store all the info (I’m a bit of a geek myself so this was fine with me).

And yesterday l went on a trip with a Focal Point team to one of the island ‘barangays’ (communities) as they visited people in their homes, finding out what their specific needs are. Despite the distances and the heat they were super-efficient.

A wheelchair user beng helped aboard a boat

Me being helped from the boat

Once the boat docked, they split up, armed with clipboards and pens, and set off on foot to get the info that will go into Merlin’s database. I believe 15 people were interviewed in a couple of hours.

A man (who is physically disabled) making a fishing net

Melmar (who makes fishing nets, among other things, to earn a living)

And it wasn’t their first visit here. When they were busy interviewing, I met Melmar, whose wheelchair was taken by the Haiyan storm surge and discovered days later, on the ocean edge, broken and useless. As a result of a previous Focal Point visit he was referred to the relevant service, he has already been measured for a new chair and he will receive it soon.

I’ve got to know a few of the focal point workers too. As well as having the required background and experience for the job they’ve also all received three days’ training from ADPI, plus, most also have disabilities themselves, or have family members with a disability.

Alex Mendoza (left, Age and Disability Focal Point worker) interviewing Mamerto in his home

Alex Mendoza (left, Age and Disability Focal Point worker) interviewing Mamerto in his home

Their enthusiasm is infectious – Alex (who’s father has polio) spoke from her heart, saying that doing this job has has helped her better understand his challenges, while Santy (a single parent bringing up two children) is obviously a role model to many here; with pride, he showed us snapshots of several children and adults he’s helped as they’ve learned to live using prosthetic limbs (Santy is the man in the top picture).

There’s more – too much more for this blog – so I hope to get time (and internet access!) in the coming days to write again…

Read more about disability inclusion in emergency response