Our work is participatory, locally-owned and and locally operationalised. Our local partners work closely with us in mapping and selecting cases, managing and implementing the program, monitoring and evaluation. We do pride ourselves with an approach guided by clearly defined ethical and practical standards:
Money where it matters: no squandering
Unlike other organisations, our work is virtually all on a voluntary and outreach basis. We do not own own or rent offices or vehicles, have no CEOs or staff on fat cheques, no jet-setting, we do not reside in wealthy areas, and we operate on extremely low overheads. We do indeed rough it, we do literally walk or bus the extra mile. This means that virtually all our funds directly reach our people and are devoted to bare basic services: health care, medication, food and education.
Participatory and locally owned
We genuinely believe that disabled people and their families are responsible for their own development. We only act to support their voices, demands and efforts on their own terms and conditions. They not only participate in what we do, they define it, they educate us about how to do it better, and importantly they own it. We listen, we learn and we respond.
We pride ourselves that our work is informed, and above all responsive. Our diverse team includes experienced activists as well as academics and researchers. We speak to families, we know them one by one, we learn from them. In turn, anything we do is informed from the ground up, and when things may not work, we are back at the drawing board with local people. This is what we call an action research approach to our work.
Culturally sensitive and responsive
We struggle hard to respect value systems and ways different to our own. Above all, we do not impose our own beliefs and ways of doing things, we talk to people, we include everyone, and above all, we respect their choices and how they see the world. Not only, but we take on board much of the local knowledge and expertise to do things better.
Realistic and long term
We are careful not to promise things we cannot deliver on. The last thing we want to do is deceive people or raise false expectations. We do not expect or claim to help everyone, simply because we cannot! We also believe that a ‘hit and run’ approach to development may do more harm than good. This means we are careful in selecting the cases we work with- these are not huge numbers, they are, though, among the most desperate. We aim to work with a number of people we can a. support effectively and b. support over the long term. Most of our cases have chronic impairments which means they need life long support.
Respect and dignity
Our approach never falters when it comes to working in ways that are respectful of disabled people, their customs and traditions and those of their families and communities. Our volunteer workers are locals, known and respected, they are carefully trained and monitored, and are committed to our approach and ethical code. We also work in ways that protect and promote the dignity of each and every person.
No poverty tourism
We are there to stay, but we know that it is ultimately insiders who can pave the way forward in the way we want to. While those of us leading the program bring technical know-how to the table, our local volunteers and team are the life and soul of what we do. They are locals, know the context, they speak the language, they teach us, we learn, and we share. We are one team and we do not ‘dump’ work on our volunteers and run. We also do not contract third parties in the hope that things get done while we do a field visit every now and then. Our reward is not only seeing people get better through health care, or being well fed. It is also in seeing our trained volunteers grow, in getting involved with disabled people and communities, in becoming pillars of support and in many ways, community leaders.