Seeing Hands Clinic II (expansion of an existing, successful social enterprise)

Seeing Hands Clinic II (expansion of an existing, successful social enterprise)

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Seeing Hands Nepal (SHN) is an innovative social enterprise which supports blind people in Nepal, by providing training and employment opportunities in massage. The pilot clinic, set up in Pokhara, now generates enough income that operations are financially self-sustained. SHN now plans to replicate the model in Kathmandu. Kickstart funding is being sought for the initial set up costs for this.

About You
Seeing Hands Nepal (UK Registered Charity)
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, XX

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


Organization Name

Seeing Hands Nepal (UK Registered Charity)

Organization Phone

+977 61 465786 (Nepal Clinic) +44 7789 336127 (UK Mobile)

Organization Address

8 Nelson Road, Ilkley, LS29 8HN

Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

What makes your innovation unique?

The Seeing Hands team is working to create a unique opportunity for the blind in Nepal - one that capitalizes upon their inherent skills and (unlike other training initiatives) offers them real prospects for work at the end of their training. There are no other projects that can claim this impact and approach in Nepal, to our knowledge. Our aim is not to create dependencies, but to establish a self-sustaining social enterprise, that in the future can be run by the blind, for the blind, promoting both their economic status and social inclusion.

The concept underlying this initiative is a program which has been tried and tested with a high degree of success in several other developing countries throughout Asia. It is however, unique and new to Nepal, a country with both a high incidence of blindness and a clear lack of employment opportunities for blind people. Nepal also has the specific advantage of a proven high demand for massage services (in tourist areas) due to the popularity of adventure-sports activities such as trekking.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

Through this initiative to date, SHN has delivered training for a total of 16 young blind and partially sighted adults, 9 of which (so far) have completed their massage studies and been offered employment in the practice clinic. With less than 150 blind people presently employed throughout Nepal, it has been calculated that the pilot clinic has already increased blind employment levels by approximately 10%. It is anticipated that future clinics will have a similarly positive impact.
In addition to the quantitative outputs listed, the project is also having a positive impact on the local community close to the existing clinic location (Pokhara). Seeing blind people earning their own incomes and travelling independently to and from work has already directly challenged local beliefs about the blind and their capabilities, and locals now assist and converse with SHN’s blind students and therapists, greatly aiding their social inclusion.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Nepal shoulders one of the largest burdens of global blindness with 600,000 people estimated to be blind or partially sighted. With limited access to education and vocational training, the employment prospects for blind people in Nepal are extremely low. Fewer than 150 presently have jobs and the problem is compounded by traditional socio-cultural beliefs (e.g. that disability is a curse or penance for sins in a previous life). There is a desperate need for development initiatives that help to promote the economic status and social inclusion of blind people in Nepal.
There are a number of reasons for the high prevalence of blindness in Nepal but poverty is by far the most common cause. With 25% of the population living in rural areas and below the poverty line, access to medical care and education is extremely limited. Malnutrition is the leading cause of blindness, with other factors such as corneal scarring, injuries as a result of Nepal’s recent civil war and traditional remedies increasing numbers still further.
In Nepal, blindness is not merely a medical issue but a developmental issue with social and economic ramifications. When a person goes blind in a rural area, he or she can expect to live a very short life. In the Himalaya, mobility is extremely difficult. No social services exist and blind individuals cannot contribute to family income. Their need for constant care from another family member reduces the family earning potential still further and as a result, many feel that they are a burden to their families and have very little self-confidence. They are marginalized and neglected and often become objects of pity within local communities. Blind people in Nepal need vocational opportunities that economically empower them & enable them to generate their own income & lead dignified, independent lives. For this to happen attitudes must change and the promotion of new professions for the blind like massage will be essential.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

SHN (UK) is a registered charity which raises the necessary initial funding to develop capacity (provide training for blind beneficiaries) and establish premises (clinic set up and initial operating costs).
Once graduates begin to work in the clinic, the revenue generated from their massage services enables the clinic to recover all operating costs. However, some additional investment is still necessitated to cover refresher training, business administration skills transfer, and management of replication projects.
To make this project a continued success, we are working hard to develop the capacity of our blind beneficiaries, encouraging them take on more responsibilities and become more involved in the day to day running of the clinic.

The success of this initiative could be prevented or hampered most by political and economic instabilities. Rising inflation is already increasing project costs significantly and a resurgence of Nepal’s recent political conflicts could potentially affect the organization’s chances of success. To mitigate economic risks, SHN intends to accumulate contingency funds to guard against economic pressures.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Year 1 (2010-2011)
- Second blind massage clinic established. The intention is to set up and equip a second clinic in Kathmandu, as a safe, managed, and well-marketed working environment for the therapists.
- 4 blind beneficiaries trained and provided with jobs in the clinic. 4 students are presently in training and on graduation in 2011, will be able to work as masseurs in this clinic, which once established, should provide them with a reliable source of income.
- Advanced skills taught to existing therapists & capacity developed. Qualified therapists are continually taught new skills and encouraged to take on more responsibilities and become more involved in the day to day running of the clinic and the training program.

Year 2 (2011-2012)
- 4 further blind beneficiaries begin training
The training course lasts a year and includes a professional-standard curriculum, taught by volunteer massage therapists from overseas who are recruited throughout the year.
- The new clinic is marketed and revenue levels increase towards sustainable goals. Efforts will be made to market and develop the new clinic by distributing leaflets, posters, etc and building partnerships with tourism related groups (hotels, tour operators, etc)

Year 3 (2012-2013)
- Second clinic becomes self-sustaining. Once revenue levels in the second clinic exceeds operating costs, surplus revenue from both clinics can be used to fund a further expansion of the training and employment program.
- Employment initiative is further developed and expanded.
-4 blind therapists complete their training and are offered work in one of the Seeing Hands clinics. SHN may also begin training a new group of 4 students at this point, depending on the success of the previous year's activities and the organization's ability to provide them with jobs at the end of their training.

How many people will your project serve annually?

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

Approximately 150 words left (1200 characters).

What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

Partnerships enable us to talk to the blind community and understand the challenges facing other similar organizations – we can seek advice and build a network of contacts and get more wide ranging support for the organization. Our partnership with the ISRM helps us to maintain high training standards and find and induct volunteers. Our partnership with the Royal National College for the Blind in London has helped us to understand the needs of blind people (specifically in relation to massage training) and our links with the Nepal Association of the Blind have helped us to find and select our beneficiaries, procure Braille materials and better understand and communicate with the local blind community. We are currently trying to establish relationships with suppliers (to secure discounts on equipment and consumables) and numerous potential commercial influencers/referrers (tour/trekking operators, extreme sports organizations, hotels).
The SHN team understands that partnerships represent a critical source of advice and guidance, help to strengthen our organization and its credibility in the eyes of potential donors, and can open up new funding opportunities.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Funding was initially raised from private donors and charitable trusts to establish the training centre and massage clinic. The clinic business itself is now entirely self sustaining but funding is still needed from SHN UK to cover the cost of training new students and expansion. Based on the current model, it is believed that additional/satellite clinics could become self sustaining in less than 2 years but capital funding is needed to ‘kickstart’ the employment programs in each location and support them in their first year of operation.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In 2005, my husband and I went for a blind massage at a clinic in Cambodia, and wondered why this initiative was not being implemented in Nepal – a country we were very familiar with and knew about the problems with blindness. I initially contacted a number of agencies to see if anyone was willing to start such an initiative in Nepal but had no success so I contacted the Association of Blind Cambodians and sought their permission to replicate their project (and use the same name - Seeing Hands) in Nepal. In 2006 we did preliminary research and began to develop the project. A curriculum was devised, equipment donated and we began training an initial group of 4 blind beneficiaries. Links and partnerships were forged with local agencies (The Nepal Association of the Blind/NAB) and a team of international volunteers were recruited, along with a local project manager. A purpose-designed training centre was constructed, and a separate practice clinic to provide employment for trained therapists and a source of income generation / cost-recovery for the SHN initiative.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

My name is Susan Ainley. I am 34 yrs old and I work in the UK (now for just part of the year) as a Marketing Manager for an IT company. I have 10 years of experience in marketing and business development and have spent time researching social enterprise structures and raising funds. With support from my husband Rob I formed a board of directors/trustees and established SHN as a UK registered charity. I now coordinate the project and run the charity to legal guidelines, preparing accounts, returns, reports, and establishing partnerships as necessary. I have been working with blind people in Nepal for over 4 years now, and I am able to speak and read Nepali fluently. I do not benefit financially from this project but have worked very hard over the last four years to turn a dream into a reality. My reward is the pride I feel in the organization’s success and in our beneficiaries, and their new-found ability to earn their own incomes and lead dignified, independent lives.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Personal contact at Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information

Ashoka fellow