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Disability is Not Inability: Stories of Success, Despite Physical Limitations

Overcoming physical disabilities to help communities thrive
A community volunteer in Thatta District, Pakistan works in the fields. Photo: ACF-Pakistan, L. Tomassini
A community volunteer in Thatta District, Pakistan works in the fields. Photo: ACF-Pakistan, L. Tomassini
  • A community volunteer in Thatta District, Pakistan works in the fields. Photo: ACF-Pakistan, L. Tomassini
  • Two community volunteers in Twic County, South Sudan build a latrine. Photo: ACF-South Sudan, J. Seagle

At Action Against Hunger, we help people who face extreme hardships every day to survive. Many lack access to basic necessities like food and water; others are struggling to rebuild after a disaster. On top of these difficulties, some people we serve also have physical limitations that make their situations even more challenging. But our work with these extraordinary people proves that disability does not mean inability, and that everyone can contribute in their own way to community development.

Dholer: Community Recovery in Pakistan

In Pakistan, our teams are using cash-based initiatives to help thousands of people rebuild their lives after devastating floods in 2010 and 2011. When we began recovery efforts in a village called Allah Rakhyo Jat in Thatta District, we met Dholer, a forty-two year old man who can’t hear or speak, and who was struggling to make ends meet after losing his home and source of income. Although he couldn’t hear what our teams were discussing with his fellow community members, he was able to use his skills with manual labor to help rehabilitate his village and earn money for food and materials to repair his damaged home. He was happy to participate in our cash for work program:

“I am a poor man. I along with my two brothers faced severe situations. We lost everything we had. Action Against Hunger helped us to stand tall again when we did not have enough to eat. Now, I am again working and making a living like I was before the floods.”

—Interpreted remarks from Dholer, 42 years old, Thatta District, Pakistan

Mariak and Deng: Sanitation in South Sudan

In Twic County, South Sudan, many residents suffer from waterborne stomach illnesses and diarrheal diseases because of the lack of proper sanitation and hygiene. Mariak, age 15, and his younger brother Deng, age 13, both encountered these problems frequently. So when they learned the importance of hygiene, latrines, and hand washing with soap from our hygiene sessions in their village, the brothers decided to construct their own latrine. The boys faced incredible challenges like poor soil quality, heavy rains, and their own physical limitations—Mariak needs crutches to walk, and Deng is blind. But despite these obstacles, the boys did not give up. They dug a three-meter pit latrine and built a hand washing facility, both of which are fully functional. Now Deng and Mariak are encouraging their classmates and friends to build latrines and hand washing stations for their own homes. Their success is a huge step towards changing local attitudes on sanitation and hygiene.

“My brother and I are disabled but we go to school and also always attend hygiene sessions. The Action Against Hunger hygiene promoter discussed the importance of household latrines and hand washing with soap. Our village does not have a latrine or a place to wash our hands, so we were often sick with stomach illnesses and diarrhea. We missed school frequently and our mother had to spend lots of money to treat our illnesses, so we asked her where we could build our own latrine. Now even the teachers in our school respect me and my brother because we have a latrine and bathing shelter.”

—Mariak, 15 years old, Twic County, South Sudan

The individuals showcased in these stories have overcome incredible odds, and shown how one person’s dedication in the face of adversity can help an entire community grow. Our goal is to provide everyone we serve, regardless of physical ability, with an opportunity to succeed.

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About Brianna Collins

Brianna Collins

Brianna leads our web and print design team, and helps to tell Action Against Hunger's story across multiple channels. Connect with Brianna on Google+

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