Motivation Australia and the Fiji Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) has launched a Peer to Peer programme in Suva. Peer to Peer programmes are about people with a disability training, mentoring and supporting other people with a similar disability. Our Peer to Peer programme, which focuses on wheelchair users, began in Suva with a one week residential course for 10 participants, delivered by two talented wheelchair user trainers from Australia.
Participants worked through theory and practical sessions including how to stay healthy and avoid some of the complications associated with some disabilities such as pressure sores, wheelchair mobility skills, practical discussions around disability rights, an introduction to wheelchair sports, and frank and open conversations about sexuality and relationships.
In countries such as Fiji, where rehabilitation is limited, Peer to Peer approaches can play a critical role in building the knowledge and skills of people with a disability – enhancing independence, participation and social inclusion.
For Akata, who has spina bifida, the Peer to Peer course helped her to achieve a major milestone in her life. Akata is a respected leader of a local disabled persons organisation in Fiji, however has never been able to propel herself in her own wheelchair.
On the first day of the course, with the support of the peer trainers, Akata learned that with a small change to her wheelchair, she could push herself. She no longer needs to rely on others to move her from place to place in her office or home. As such, she will be in an even better position to carry out the important work she does.
The next steps with this programme are to support the participants to develop plans for how they may utilise the skills and knowledge they gained at the course for their own benefit as well as sharing some of what they have learned with others. Motivation Australia and the SIA will be working closely with the group, and look forward to supporting their initiatives.