In September 2017, funding from the Rangoonwala Foundation India Trust enabled us to extend our work into Odisha state, in partnership with three local NGOs – EKTA, SPREAD and WORD. Together with our partners, we devised a 3-year project aimed at working specifically with 1,501 carers of people with disabilities and mental illnesses from marginalised tribal communities in Koraput district. With the first year of the project completed, we have taken some time to reflect on the main successes of the project so far. Key achievements to date have included:
Community insight and needs assessments
1,501 carers, alongside 1,501 family members that they care for, were surveyed as part of our Baseline Study. The survey responses provided detailed knowledge about the specific needs of individual carers and the caring community as a whole. Research was conducted in Koraput, one of the poorest districts in India, giving us an insight in to valuable, yet overlooked, contributions of these marginalised tribal carers, many of whom live in inaccessible forest pockets and hilly terrain.
Building the capacity of EKTA, SPREAD and WORD to address the needs and promote the rights of carers, the disabled and the mentally ill
Key staff from our partner organizations have been trained to work alongside carers to develop individual carer plans which provide the foundation for supporting each carer engaged in the project. Such plans enable carers to access government, bank and NGO resources aswell as giving carers the chance to establish livelihood opportunities that can coexist with their caring duties.
Promoting the needs and rights of carers, the disabled and the mentally ill
Project staff have facilitated 25 meetings across 50 communities to promote the needs and rights of carers, people with disabilities and people with mental illnesses. These village and block level meetings have engaged carers and their family members with other people from their local communities, creating spaces for discussions about the challenges carers face.
Creation of carers self-help groups
25 carers self-help groups have been formed, providing a place for interaction and socialisation between carers. The groups meet monthly to discuss and find solutions to their challenges. In addition to this, two representatives from each group are responsible for mobilizing local resources to support carers.
In just the space of a year, 1501 carers have been given a platform to voice their concerns and have worked together to have their needs listened to by local authorities. The carers have acquired a new hope for their lives since uniting together to find solutions to their problems. By this stage in the project, we are already seeing marked improvements in the lives of carers and the persons they care for.
Encouraged by this entire process, we are looking forward to the second year of the project and to the successes and challenges that it will bring. Our next stage will focus on forming a district-level Carers Assocation to ensure carers secure a place on the government’s development agenda.