Stories of Capacity Development: Access and Opportunity for People with Disabilities in Laos

November 28th, 2022 | Stories

At its establishment, Quality of Life Association (QLA) was the first civil society organization focused specifically on supporting victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO), as well as people with disabilities, their families, and communities. Prior to this, QLA’s activities were part of World Education Laos. World Education was able to secure funding from the McKnight Foundation to transition QLA into its own registered non-profit organization. World Education then began what would become a lasting partnership with QLA, joining forces to improve the well-being of individuals in Laos through the Training, Economic Empowerment, Assistive Technology, and Medical and Physical Rehabilitation (TEAM) project and now the USAID Okard project.

The USAID Okard project aims to improve and sustain the optimized functional ability and independent living of people with disabilities in Lao PDR. QLA’s mission is to advocate for the empowerment and inclusion of UXO survivors and people with disabilities and to coordinate medical, psycho-social, rehabilitative, education, and livelihood and development programs. Led by survivors of UXO who have strong ties to the communities in which they operate, QLA’s work is critical for the success of the Okard project.

A key initiative of the Okard project is identifying and targeting people with disabilities who are not receiving services, typically those who live in remote areas. The knowledge and rapport of QLA’s staff help Okard serve those who were previously hard to reach. To assess the health and well-being of individuals in 35 villages and determine who needs services, and what kinds of services, QLA uses World Education’s Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) model. This model serves as a needs assessment and a case management tool, analyzing the health and living quality of individuals with disabilities as well as if they need services, like psychosocial support or a wheelchair, and providing support to start income generation activities.

QLA supports local communities to take actions to remove barriers to inclusion, from assisting schools, health centers, and homes to be more accessible for people with disabilities to organizing village group discussions on diversity and the rights of people with disabilities. With discrimination an ongoing issue at the community level, QLA works to ensure people with disabilities can participate in local development on an equal basis with others, including through Social Behavior Change and Communication. As a result, QLA leadership is noticing that people with disabilities and their families and communities understand each other better, feel more confident and comfortable working together and helping each other, and people with disabilities are more involved in their communities.

World Education provides technical assistance to QLA, training them on using the CBID model and applying compassionate care. QLA is able to build long lasting relationships with the individuals they work with to ensure they are cared for and receive the support they need. To enhance the capacity and sustainability of QLA as an organization, World Education assessed their organizational capacity and determined where there are gaps. We are assisting them in developing a business plan and organizational strategy, and conducting training on financial management, writing proposals, leveraging technology, and more.

Technical assistance has created “change for the better” for QLA and the organization is continuing to learn “step by step”, with support from World Education, according to its leadership. Because of the high quality of work QLA is at, its leadership feels they are ready for the next step forward. Their facilitators trained to use the CBID model can train other staff and expand their work.

After working with QLA, the government partners on the Okard project saw how a local organization trained in CBID with strengthened capacity to meet community needs is key to success. They want to continue with the CBID model beyond the project, and now have the know-how and support from QLA to do so. The governor of one district in Laos noted that it is important to prepare for the end of the project so that the activities of Okard can keep going. World Education, QLA, and our partners are committed to ensuring the rights of people with disabilities to the same access and opportunities as their community members, and that local organizations and structures are equipped to sustainably protect these rights.

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