A special sheltered workshop program in Colombia
As part of the Volunteer Award, the nominating association receives US$5,000 to help carry out a special project to assist people with epilepsy improve their life quality. Jaime and Margaret Fandiño outline the Family Enterprise project that is about to get underway in Cartagena.
Definition of the program
In line with the IBE philosophy of encouraging self-help attitudes in people with epilepsy, the Institute for Rehabilitation of People with Epilepsy FIRE in Cartagena, Colombia has designed a program for young adults with epilepsy who are highly dependent on others, but whose families are able to collaborate in creating what we plan to call family (or micro) enterprises.
Eight people with epilepsy from the lowest socio-economic level have been selected initially to be involved in this program. All are long time epilepsy patients of the Colombian League against Epilepsy; two have undergone epilepsy surgery and are now almost seizure free. The average age is 25, the eldest being 35 years old and the youngest 17 years old. We consider this period in life as the most critical time for people with epilepsy, since it represents the limit between independent living and total dependence on the family for the rest of their lives.
The core element of this program is the coming together of 8 families with 8 young people with epilepsy who at present are in FIREs Sheltered Workshop.
The goal we want to reach is to lead these young people with epilepsy towards integration – in the family, the community and employment; to provide them with some economical independence and to make them feel useful to society.
Planning and development
Since there are very few employment opportunities available to people living in a developing country who have any handicap, we have to look for different methods for those people with epilepsy for whom we care, in order to involve them in a productive life. We want to increase their self-esteem and to give them a sense of dignity as useful members of the working society. This is why the aim of our program is the training or technical education of young adults with epilepsy together with their families. This project is the beginning of a new project in our sheltered workshop program and will be developed with other groups of people with epilepsy, or those who have undergone epilepsy surgery.
Together with some of their family members, the students will be trained to produce some very simple household products. We call the program Family Enterprise. This little home-based manufacturing unit can then sell its creations in the suburbs or in the local village. It seems very important to us to involve families in this process, as they are a constant support and help.
The length of the program is one year, but the families of course are going to be supported and visited after the end of this period. So, family enterprises are alternative sources of employment that greatly improve the quality of life of our patients and thereby diminish the emotional and economical burden faced by their families. Perhaps this program could be used as a model for other similar programs in some other developing countries.
- To evaluate each person according to vocational ability and to place them in an appropriate program;
- To evaluate family members and the family environment to access how best we can provide technical education for both family members and the person with epilepsy;
- To maintain the interest of all involved in the learning program for the duration of the training period;
- To assimilate the person with epilepsy into a working environment.
The families themselves will provide the material required for training; marketing will be untaken with the help of an advisor to the Institute who will be present throughout the training period, to assure the success of this important project. After one year FIRE plans to demonstrate the success of family enterprises to the government as a means of personal development for people of limited means in the community. Hopefully this will result in the provision of financial support for its continuance.