Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organisation (BERDO) - Bangladesh
BERDO consists of 26 staff members who work mostly through face-to-face interaction to inform people about the experiences and needs of, to advocate for, and to empower the disabled.
Much of this work is grouped under the rubric of a community-based programme called the Rehabilitation Program for Disabled People (RPDP) that focusses on:
- Group formation and development: To create public awareness and foster understanding, BERDO forms savings groups that include both disabled and non-disabled people. The idea is that working together toward a common goal can foster connection and might stimulate dialogue that corrects misconceptions, such as the idea that the government (rather than the community) is fully responsible for disabled people and their economic needs. As of this writing, 126 groups have been organised with a total of 3150 members, 2833 of whom are women. 610 members are disabled. The average group membership is 20-30. All groups meet weekly and save at least 10 Taka, which they deposit regularly. Each group has an executive committee that manages group activities. As part of a 52-week curriculum, BERDO staff discuss different issues in the group meetings to foster increased awareness and exchange of experiences.
- Revolving loan fund for income-generating activities: these groups receive money to support income-generating activities. The credit money is used in small businesses such as automobile and electronics repair, laundry and weaving, and sales of crafts and other goods.
- Linkage establishment: By creating networks of village committees, staff, and disabled people, BERDO seeks to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to serve in leadership roles and to help shape their communities' strategies for addressing the needs of the disabled.
- Training: To develop and to enhance the skills of its staff, BERDO has arranged monthly training on disability issues and community development. In addition, BERDO trains disabled people and their families. For example, some parents of the children with disabilities send their "normal" children to school but believe that their disabled children cannot join their siblings because they are incapable of being educated. BERDO corrects such misunderstandings and helps parents make decisions supportive of their children's development and integration into society. BERDO also talks with teachers at community schools. According to organisers, many of these teachers are ignorant of the fact that special techniques can be used to foster the literacy of children with disabilities; some even refuse to admit these children to their schools. BERDO provides related training and awareness-raising sessions.
- Education: BERDO advocates for children with disabilities who are deprived of an education. It also assists those children who have tried to attend school but dropped out by facilitating their return to school and by providing them with some educational materials.
- Treatment: BERDO has provided some treatment facilities and medicine to group members. BERDO points out that disabilities can be exacerbated or even caused by negligence, ignorance, poverty, and lack of awareness among family members. To that end, it has established a hospital dedicated to preventing disability in the community.
- Assistive device/mobility aid: BERDO aims to ensure that any disabled person is self-reliant enough to move from place to place: It provides assistive devices to disabled people.
In addition, BERDO supports the education of disabled children and young people. First, with the support of various local institutions, BERDO provides scholarships to meritorious disabled students. Second, BERDO has created a "talking library" that includes approximately 1500 talking and Braille books for blind students. In the library's seminar room, tables and tape recorders enable 6 students to study together at one time. Organisers say that about 10 to 12 students come for study daily. Students may also borrow books; a librarian is present to help the students. In addition, the library has a recording studio where talking books can be created using audiocassettes. As of this writing, 260 books have been created by student volunteers from different educational institutions. The collection is designed to be used for education, knowledge, amusement, and experimentation. Over 200 students are members of this library.
Finally, BERDO acts as a liaison, using personal communication to support the economic development of disabled persons. As part of its job placement service, BERDO explores the job sector for disabled people by opening up communication with employers about disabled people (in general, as well as in specific cases) and their capacities. This process involves providing information as well as advocating - working to expand the job sector in different institutions by encouraging the government and others to give the disabled a chance and by proving that they are eligible for service.
Disability, Economic Development, Education, Children.
According to BERDO, Bangladesh is a poor and densely populated country. A large part of the population is disabled. BERDO explains that these people are deprived of medical care as well as education and employment opportunities. Organisers say that, because of poverty and the ignorance of their families, they are dependent on others and at risk of becoming objects of harassment and humiliation.
Initially BERDO received financial support from the Canada Fund, The Royal Netherlands Embassy, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Japan, Nova Consultancy Bangladesh (NCB), Cordaid, German Embassy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and BRAC.
Posting from Md. Saidul Huq to the bytesforall_readers list server on December 10 2003 (click here to access the archives); and letter sent from Md. Saidul Huq to The Communication Initiative on December 28 2003.