Motivation Australia and the National Community Based Rehabilitation Unit held the first Peer Group Training (PGT) residential course in the Solomon Islands in June this year.
PGT involves wheelchair users training others with a similar disability in skills and knowledge that enable them to carry out everyday activities and achieve an improved quality of life. Read more about Peer Group Training.
Seven wheelchair users and four family members attended the five day course, which was led by wheelchair user trainers from Motivation Australia and Motivation (UK). A daily timetable of sessions including personal mobility skills, health care, disability rights and sport introduced the participants to a range of skills and ideas.
For all of the participants this course was a unique opportunity for them to gain information about their own disability, develop skills that in Australia would be taught through rehabilitation, share experiences with their peers and ask questions they would not normally feel comfortable to ask.
James said: "I learned what my disability is; I have a spinal cord injury. A complete injury means that the spinal cord is cut and no messages can get through. An incomplete injury means that some messages get through but some do not."
Phillip enjoyed learning about daily stretches and exercises for health; "I learned how to keep my body strong and working well, cause the blood to flow around my body and develop muscles, [the stretches] were easy to remember and we can use them at home every day."
Sport was a favourite activity for all participants. One participant noted: "If you play [basketball] you can move and change positions and relax. You can get a strong body and you can learn about what you body can do when you do sports."
Carers also gained from attending the course. Jedy who cares for his father, James said: "I learned that my father can go up and down a step by himself, I also learned how to help him to go up and down steps that he cannot do himself. I also learned how to catch him safely if he falls in the wheelchair."
The camaraderie and shared experience of PGT creates a positive atmosphere for change and a desire in individuals to be active and look after themselves. Through PGT programmes, Motivation Australia can empower individuals by increasing confidence, self-esteem, mobility and health and therefore improve integration of people with a disability in society. Motivation Australia would like to thank AusAID and the Planet Wheeler Foundation for funding the camp; and to thank our trainers including lead trainer Jennifer Howitt-Browning from Motivation, and volunteer trainers Stacey Copas, Huy Nguyen and Trish Thompson.