Hesperian Health Guides

Starting in a Village—Where to Begin?

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 45: Starting Village-Based Rehabilitation Activities > Starting in a Village—Where to Begin?


Rehabilitation of disabled persons within a village or neighborhood usually has two major goals:

  1. To create a situation that allows each disabled person to live as fulfilling, selfreliant, and whole a life as possible, in close relation with other people.
  2. To help other people—family, neighbors, school children, members of the community—to accept, respect, feel comfortable with, assist (only where necessary), welcome into their lives, provide equal opportunities for, and appreciate the abilities and possibilities of disabled people.


To help other people—family, neighbors, school children, members of the community—to accept, respect, feel comfortable with, assist (only where necessary), welcome into their lives, provide equal opportunities for, and appreciate the abilities and possibilities of disabled people.

One of the best ways to bring about better understanding and acceptance of disabled people is to involve both disabled and non-disabled persons in shared activities. The next few chapters discuss selected community activities that can help improve people’s understanding and respect for the disabled. These can be introduced either as part of a rehabilitation program, or independently by concerned persons such as parents, school teachers, or religious leaders. Some of these activities, in fact, have proved to be good ways to create interest and open discussion with local people about starting a small community-based program.

There are many possibilities for getting people in a village or neighborhood more actively involved. Often a good way to start is to call a meeting to bring together disabled persons and family members of the disabled. Sometimes one or more leaders in the community happen to have a child or close relative who is disabled. These persons, with a little encouragement, may take the lead in organizing other families with disabled children, or in starting a local rehabilitation program.

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In a community program everyone helps out. Here the mother of a boy with polio sews cloth to form ‘stockings’ for use under plaster casts.

It makes sense to start where people express their biggest concern. For example, in Peshawar, Pakistan, a community program for mentally slow children was started because families of these children expressed a strong need. In Nicaragua, a group of disabled revolutionaries with spinal cord injuries started a program to produce lowcost wheelchairs to meet their particular needs, in Mexico, physically disabled village health workers started a community program for disabled children and their families. Today, these 3 programs have all expanded their coverage to include a far wider range of disabilities than they started with.

Some children have several disabilities, so it is hard to limit attention only to certain ones. We must try to meet the needs of the whole child, within the family and within the community. However, it often works best to start in a small and fairly limited way, wherever people are ready. Let things grow and branch out from there, as new concerns arise and new people become involved.



This page was updated:19 Jan 2018