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.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
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