Profile of Ethiopia’s Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation OrganizationPosted: June 9, 2014
Founded by two landmine survivors, Mr. Bekele Gonfa and Mrs. Yemariamwerk Debela, the Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRaRO) seeks to provide peer support services to landmine survivors and other persons with limb loss and severe injuries. As survivors, Mr. Gonfa and Mrs. Debela recognized the need to additional support beyond the standard medical and rehabilitative care available in Ethiopia. They valued the peer support approach as a means of providing holistic recovery and reintegration support to survivors of severe and disabling injuries and in the absence of any other providers, created SRaRO which just became operational in April 2014.
Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization builds upon the peer support modeled implemented by Landmine Survivors Network (LSN) in Ethiopia and LSN’s former Ethiopia country director, Mr. Gonfa, will serve as SRaRO’s founding Executive Director. Mr. Gonfa is also a researcher for the Landmine Monitor and an advocate for humanitarian disarmament as an active campaigner and victim assistance focal point, most recently participating in the meetings to ban nuclear weapons in Mexico earlier this year. Mr. Gonfa also serves as the board chair for Ketar Developmental Association (KDA), the board vice chair for the Ethiopian Center for Disability Development (ECDD) and as a board member for Cheshire Service Ethiopia (CSE). With the connections and knowledge from LSN as well as the support and guidance of a five-person Board of Directors, SRaRO is launching an ambitious program in Addis Ababa and Oromia to enable survivors practically back to life.
Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization has applied for membership in the Ethiopian National Disability Action Network (ENDAN). SRaRO participates in relevant international coalitions including the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munitions Coalition (ICBL-CMC) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Bekele Gonfa is an active campaigner for the ICBL-CMC and frequently represents the landmine survivor community on behalf of the ICBL-CMC. He has been serving as a technical advisor for a government of Norway-funded Survivors Network Project being implemented by Yitawekilin Yeakal Gudatagnoch Mehiber (YYGM, “Recognize our Disability”).
What is Peer Support?
Peer support is a simple and effective way to empower persons with disabilities and provide psychosocial support. SRaRO’s peer support program connects recent landmine victims and other persons with traumatic limb loss with survivors who have had time to reflect, convalesce and reintegrate themselves as productive, contributing members of society. Recent victims share their stories, have their emotions validated, receive practical advice and, through their interaction with fellow survivors, realize that successful recuperation is possible. The peer support approach is efficient and broadly applicable across the Ethiopian context.
Peer support is not limited to counseling. In practice, peer support starts with the identification of persons with disabilities and landmine survivors who are traumatized and live in isolation, followed by provision of peer counseling. The number of peer counseling sessions depends on the condition of the beneficiary; a person who is newly disabled may need three to six peer counseling sessions and a person who was disabled many years ago and lives in isolation need over 10 peer counseling sessions to regain his/her self-confidence. If necessary, SRaRO will refer survivors to professional psychological centers for treatment. Once a beneficiary has received peer counseling and realized that reintegration into society is possible, he/she will be referred to available educational, vocational, health, orthopedic services based on the needs and demands of that beneficiary. Recipients of peer support who themselves demonstrate successful rehabilitation and reintegration may be recruited as peer supporters for other persons with limb loss.
Rationale of the Project
Survivors Corps (originally, Landmine Survivors Network) closed its landmine survivor assistance project in Ethiopia in 2009. The project enhanced the recovery and rehabilitation of hundreds of Ethiopian landmine survivors and amputees, through the application of a peer support approach, during its decade of operation. By bridging the gap between survivors and service providing organizations in Ethiopia, Survivor Corps provided Ethiopian amputees with links and referrals to services that would have otherwise been under-utilized. When the project closed, no other entity was able to meet the demands of the amputee population for access to service providers.
Ethiopia is one of the mine-affected countries in the world with significant numbers of landmine survivors as well as other persons with disabilities from all other causes, especially traffic accidents, who are badly in need of support for recovery and rehabilitation. Cancer and infection are other major disabling factors whose survivors need access to rehabilitation services. In order to reach out and address the needs of these survivors and enable them stand on their feet we have established an organization, SRaRO, which promotes the recovery and rehabilitation of this group. Hospitals may provide necessary medical treatment and professional counseling, but we have found the peer support approach, one survivor teaching another, to be most effective for trauma recovery.
Goal and Objectives
SRaRO’s goal is to empower survivors of disabling injuries to be self-sufficient citizens of Ethiopia.
- To increase awareness of the psycho-social needs pf survivors of traumatic limb loss;
- To improve the recovery and rehabilitation of survivors through application of the peer support approach;
- Facilitate hospital and home visits by peer support workers;
- To increase the awareness of service providers about national and international laws and policies related to disability; and
- To increase the capacity of some service providers in order to serve more survivors.
Criteria for Target Selection
Research will be conducted to identify service providers for persons with traumatic limb loss including hospitals that conduct orthopedic surgery, prosthetic and orthotic centers, micro-finance institutions and vocational training centers. Our assessment will determine which service providers reach the greatest number of target beneficiaries and which are receptive to partnering with SRaRO. Expansion of activities will be based upon the ability of service providers to reach underserved groups of survivors.
Area of Operation
SRaRO will start its operation in Addis Ababa City Administration (with hospitals and other service providers) and Oromia Regional State. We hope to expand to other regions based on needs assessments and availability of resources. We have chosen Addis Ababa and Oromia to start with because of the presence of large numbers of survivors in these two places as well as the presence of referral hospitals and other hospitals in Addis Ababa and the high traffic density in Addis Ababa and Oromia that results in high numbers of disabling road accidents.
What We Do
Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRaRO) uses four basic approaches to promote rehabilitation:
1) Recovery and Role Modeling: SRaRO employs peer support workers who have faced trauma, recovered and are living independently. Peer support workers have “been through it” and serve as role models to others and the co-founder, Yemariamwerk Debela serves as SRaRO’s first peer support worker. SRaRO’s executive director, Bekele Gonfa, also serves as a role model and can share his experiences and success whenever appropriate. Peer support workers visit hospitals with orthopedic surgical units and offer peer counseling to patients who have recently suffered trauma or are facing surgical amputation. Once contact is made with the survivor, the peer support worker will conduct home visits after the survivor is discharged. SRaRO provides peer support workers with the necessary training and tools to provide peer counseling and referrals to psychological services if needed.
2) Physical Mobility and Accessibility: The peer support worker the survivors with information on rehabilitation service providers and the types of service they render. Armed with this knowledge, the survivors can move forward to receive the necessary physiotherapy services and appropriate rehabilitative appliances which, depending upon the nature of the survivor’s injuries, could include prostheses, orthotics, crutches, wheelchairs, brace, neck collars etc. SRaRO raises awareness among the service providers and encourages them to supply these appliances for free to the survivors but also hopes to have the funding to cover some or all of the cost depending on the income of the survivors and availability of funds.
3) Economic Independence: For survivors to be self-sufficient, they must be able to support themselves financially, either through wage labor or the proceeds from a micro or small business. SRaRO provides survivors with information about vocational training opportunities, microfinance institutions, and employers who have expressed an interest in hiring SRaRO’s clients. If possible, SRaRO will subsidize training fees for clients at vocational training centers and will organize self-help groups of clients with an interest in establishing their own businesses. These self-help groups double as credit circles and serve as an informal peer support mechanism.
4) Enabling Environment: In addition to the direct services provided to survivors through the peer support approach, SRaRO will increase awareness within the community and among the relevant service providers to educate about national and international laws and policies such as Ethiopia’s Employment Opportunity Proclamation and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
If successful, SRaRO expects to see the following changes in the working areas:
- The Clients (survivors) will recovery from the trauma and be ready to reintegrated with the society.
- Awareness of service providers increased and they have started proving service to the survivors
- Survivors will be rehabilitated physically, empowered economically and strive to be a self-supporting and independent citizen.
As with all start-ups, Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization is seeking donations. Members of the organization are expected to contribute 2,000 Ethiopia Birr (roughly US $100). SRaRO’s management and board are sourcing office equipment and materials from partners and the Charity and Society Agency. Otherwise, SRaRO has started its operation with the labor and financial generosity of the founders and volunteers. Once funds are available, experienced staff will be hired to conduct the activities described above.
For more information, contact:
Bekele Gonfa Oba, Executive Director