The Coolest Job Ever
During the Manitoba H1N1 scare in 2009, it was a scramble to make an agency support plan if the employees got sick where I worked. It was zero fun putting that plan in place. It was deeply humbling to put into perspective how dependant all of us are on how the world works right this second. We take transportation, access to medical attention, and clean water for granted.
Disasters add a sudden support burden on communities that can range from difficult to dangerous.
As the world’s largest Ebola epidemic slowly grinds to a close, there are 15,834 confirmed survivors. Some estimates report that roughly 40% of survivors are experiencing vision problems. Many are facing chronic joint pain bad enough to interfere with the ability to walk and extreme headaches. That’s an enormous support challenge. Especially since the three hardest hit countries, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, are among the poorest countries in the world.
The recent earthquake in Nepal left 19,000 people injured. More than a few will join the ranks of the world’s largest minority. In a community that traditionally views disability as punishment for sins in a past life, inclusion and support become that much more difficult to implement.
The challenges that Nepal and West Africa face are of Everest sized proportions. But there’s hope! Others have proven strategies for creating inclusive support that fuels independence while battling unimaginable odds.
Alberto Cairo’s TED talk There are no scraps of men tells his 21 year experience working in Afghanistan in a prosthetics clinic, and how it changed his view of disability forever. Particularly the necessity for involving people with disabilities in the solution. Dignity can provoke a stunning transformation in quality of life and outcomes. Independence is so important that the clinic never closes. Over 7000 newcomers are admitted every year as war rages and sputters around it in a seeming never ending cycle.
Alberto’s story, like every positive outcome for people with disabilities I’ve ever heard, comes from human connection and community building. In 1990 he met a man struggling to escape a recently bombed street with his young son. The son was pushing his father’s wheelchair. The father, a war veteran, had lost an arm and both legs. Mahmoud was unable to get prosthetics as the Red Cross clinic was closed. Rehabilitation was not classified a relief effort priority at the time and Mahmoud was dependant on his young son Rafi to get around.
Alberto, and his assistant Najmuddin, eventually got Mahmoud the prosthetics he needed. A year later Mahmoud returned to the clinic. Disability hiring discrimination is unfortunately not just a first world problem. Mahmoud despite being fully capable of working couldn’t get a job. He asked Alberto for work even though he was but, ‘a scrap of a man,’ he was ready to do anything to be employed and support his family.
Alberto’s decision to hire Mahmoud revolutionized the clinic and patient care. After his one week work trial, Mahmoud was the fasted employee in the prosthetics production line and boosted productivity by 20%. From there, the clinic gave jobs to other war amputee’s. Therapists that have gone through the program bond and empathize with their patients in a way that non-disabled medics can’t. The process gives patients hope and motivates them to rehabilitate faster.
Support work in Canada may not be as dramatic, but it’s a reminder of how vital supports are. Dignity, respect, and independence cannot wait for a better time. They are a human right, and you make that happen. #coolestjobever
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