In september reisde de Baarnse HBO student Sherida Glaasker af naar Sri Lanka om daar te helpen in het Rehabilitation Centre Home of Hope. Veel bewoners van het centrum zijn meervoudig gehandicapte kinderen en jong volwassenen. Ze wilde hen graag toegang geven tot communicatie. Daarvoor zijn hulpmiddelen om te spreken nodig. Van QuoVadis Nederland en Breunesse ICT, beide uit Baarn, kreeg Sherida enkele laptops mee. Smartbox heeft ze voorzien van Grid 3 communicatie ondersteunende (AAC) software.
Als extra heeft de fabrikant SmartBox uit Groot-Brittannië 2 complete communicatie sets aangeboden ter waarde van ongeveer € 5.000,00 per stuk. Dit fantastische project wordt hiermee geweldig ondersteund in hun hulp aan mensen met een meervoudig beperking in Sri Lanka. Uiteraard kreeg Sherida voor vertrek van QuoVadis een uitgebreide training, zodat ze goed met de bewoners aan de slag kon.
Afgelopen november bezocht directeur Paul Hawes van Smartbox uit Groot-Brittannië dit mooie project in Sri Lanka. Hieronder zijn verslag:
It is a beautiful country, and we loved our short time there. It is similar to South India, but more scenic a bit less frenetic. It is also a cheap place to stay as long as you avoid the Western style resorts (which we did). We travelled mostly by train and visited Colombo, Galle and Kandy, with a few places in between.
It is a poor country; GDP per capita is about $6500 (compare to $4200 in India and $41,000 in the UK). As a result, public services are quite basic. Education is of a good standard, but there is no state funding at all for special needs, and disabled children are entirely dependent on charity.
Home of Hope was started as an orphanage by Alfy and Sharmini Perera for victims of the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, although latterly many of the children actually have parents who are unable to look after them. Some years ago, they decided to broaden into helping children with special needs, and were given support, both professional and financial by a Dutch lady called Jose van Nunspeet, who organises internships for therapists to work alongside the local staff.
We met the Dutch volunteer OT Sherida Glaasker, and the Sri Lankan speech therapist Sanjee Waniayeshika. Sanjee understands a lot about AAC, but would benefit from some support on getting the best from Grid 3. We also met many staff, including one of the founders (Sharmini).
As we were setting off, we heard that the Avaz AAC app had just been released in Sri Lanka at the National Centre for Cerebral Palsy in Colombo, which is a school. We contacted the founders – a husband and wife team called Gopi and Dilani Kumar – who began the school because there was nowhere suitable for their son who is a bright 18-year-old with severe cerebral palsy.
They have about 60 pupils, all with CP, and have recently started a unit for children with autism.
In the absence of any state funding, they are reliant mainly on sponsorship from the Dilmar tea company who donate 10% of their profits to local development projects.
The school is very well run with a staff of professionals who achieve wonderful results with so little resources. A great example is the way they produce specialist seating. They buy cheap Chinese wheelchairs to donate to the families, but keep the strong cardboard shipping cases. These are cut and laminated to make amazingly light and strong individual seating for the kids. A bit labour intensive, but the parents all help, and they work really well.
They already use Android tablets in the school, but are about to start using the iOS version of Avaz, as Sinhala and Tamil voices are available. We discussed the differences between G3 and Avaz, and they spoke of their hope that their son may be able to use eye gaze.
From what we saw, Sri Lanka is a country where support from us could be very effective. It is a country that cares enough, has the professionals available, but no money for expensive Western style devices. Certainly, the two places we visited could make very good use of support from us, both in terms of donated equipment, but also just support and guidance.
Het revalidatiecentrum heeft een nieuwsbrief verstuurd, waarin kort aandacht is voor de nieuwe voorzieningen die Sherida heeft geleverd. De nieuwsbrief kunt u vinden op de website: http://homeofhope4all.nl/
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