Make Your Attitude Count – a personal disability perspective

2 December, 2014 - Steph Gaut

To celebrate International Day of People With Disability (IDPWD), we are thrilled to hear from An Nguyen. An came from Vietnam to study a Masters (Research)  of Health Sciences in Australia, and is currently a Research volunteer at CBM. Here is her personal account of what life was like growing up as a girl living with disability in a developing country, and how she’s working together with CBM to change negative attitudes, discrimination and stigma towards people with disabilities.

An Nguyen grew up in Vietnam living with a disability. She is currently a Research volunteer at CBM

An Nguyen grew up in Vietnam living with a disability. She is currently a Research volunteer at CBM.

“I suffered from polio when I was four years old. In my hometown, a small village in the middle of Vietnam, it was not easy for me to integrate into the community at that time. It seems that I was isolated during my childhood,  I was even hit by my friends at schools. I found it very difficult to go to school and have a good friend, just because I am a girl with physical disability.

I used to think: “I want to give up my dream, or even consider being suicidal”. However, the love of my parents helped me out of negative thinking and I could continue going to school. I ignored the mockery and stood all the bad things from my friends. I stated that I had to go to school, because my good marks made my parents happy.

The stigmatised discourse towards people with disabilities can give them an inferiority complex, which results in losing opportunities to change their lives. Being a person with disability, I acknowledge these barriers impacedt my life as well as people with disabilities in Vietnam. So I wanted to change my life, I wanted to break the “invisible rules” and also improve the awareness of people in the communities. Thus, I dreamed to study oversea and made a plan for that when I was an undergraduate student. Luckily, I got a full scholarship from Australian Government. I currently study at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Certainly, I have learnt a lot of things from the university, Australian friends, and CBM as well.

When I began living in Australia for my study, I wanted to contact any organization related to people with disabilities. I never stopped finding the information about this. One day, my friend told me about CBM Australia and I really felt fantastic. The first day I came to CBM for a workshop, I said “I want to be a volunteer here”. And now I am a research volunteer at CBM. I am happy with my work here. I am updating DID Stats and Facts. I believe that it will be very useful for CBM and other readers. I also really enjoy CBM’s environment. The staff are very nice and skillful. So I can improve my English skill, know more about Australian culture, and build a big network.

I am really passionate about researching people with disabilities because, based on my findings, I can give persuasive evidences that people with disabilities are human beings. They have a right to do anything they want. In the future, I would like to enhance the quality of life of Vietnamese people with disabilities. Particularly, I want to provide the basic information related to sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as improve the awareness of other people about disabilities.”


No Comments

World Toilet Day 2014

19 November, 2014 - Briana Wilson

Briana is one of CBM Australia’s Technical Advisors. She works within the Inclusive Development department to promote the rights of people living with disabilities in some of the world’s poorest countries.


Did you know 1 in 3 people in the world don’t have access to a safe and decent toilet?

For people with disability accessing a toilet can be even more challenging. For example, listen to Abena from Ghana talk about how she had to crawl through the bush to go to the toilet

At CBM Australia the Inclusive Development Department has been busy working with partners to ensure people with disabilities are included in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs. One of these projects is with WaterAid in Papua New Guinea.


Community member showing a typical toilet in Papua New Guinea. CBM Australia is working with WaterAid to develop accessible toilets for people with disability.

Community member showing a typical toilet in Papua New Guinea. CBM Australia is working with WaterAid to develop accessible toilets for people with disability.

CBM Austalia is working with WaterAid to ensure that people with disabilities are included in village level WASH projects. I have been working with a gender consultant to also ensure men and women participate equally. The aim is to ensure that everyone has a say in how the project is run, including what types of toilets the community would like, where toilets and water points should be, and how the community will manage the often scarce fresh water.

Participation in decision making ensures that all members of the community gain access to water, sanitation and hygiene behaviour change. Critical to this approach is working with the local Disabled People’s Organisation, to ensure that people with disabilities are included, and that their rights are recognised in their villages.

It’s an exciting program to be involved in, as access to water, sanitation and a decent standard of living are such core human rights.  Access to these fundamentals is especially important for people with disabilities, who are often missed in these projects. The good community development processes that WASH projects use are also a perfect vehicle for ensuring that people with disabilities are recognised as valuable, contributing members of their communities. It’s great to see our colleagues in the WASH sector partnering with Disabled People’s Organisations and working towards the vision of a more inclusive world.

If you would like to learn more about World Toilet Day, please visit


No Comments

Typhoon Haiyan – one year on…

7 November, 2014 - Steph Gaut

One year ago this week, Typhoon Haiyan swept through the central Philippines. It was one of the most powerful storms on record, killing over 6000 people and affecting another 14 million.

CBM and its partners were on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the November 8 disaster to provide emergency support, and one year later we’re continuing to work in the hardest-hit places to make sure people with disabilities are included in all areas of relief efforts and rehabilitation.


With CBM support, four Special Education school centres have been rebuilt, and seven more are on their way.

With CBM support, four Special Education school centres have been rebuilt, and seven more are on their way.


How CBM has helped: a breakdown

Since Typhoon Haiyan struck, CBM and our partner organisations have been working to provide immediate relief support, as well as working on long-term strategies to ensure local communities are prepared with strategies for future disaster situations that will include people with disabilities.

During the past year, your support has:

  • Helped over 62,000 people receive vital support
  • Ensured more than 3800 vulnerable households received emergency supplies, such as food and clean water;
  • Rebuilt and refurnished four school resource centres, with seven more in progress;
  • Helped repair 135 damaged houses, supporting over 800 people;
  • Ensured future houses for 100 families will be typhoon-resilient and accessible, with appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH);
  • Trained six local partner organisations to understand and promote accessibility;
  • Started a Community Mental Health program, providing services to 250 people with psychosocial disabilities, and training over 100 local health professionals in community mental health.


14-year-old Benjillo (left) and his family were left with nothing after Typhoon Haiyan. They're just one of over 3800 households who received a CBM emergency supplies.

14-year-old Benjillo (left) and his family were left with nothing after Typhoon Haiyan. They’re just one of over 3800 households who received CBM emergency supplies.


We’re hearing from people about just how grateful they are for the support they’ve received through CBM. Perlita, a mother of nine whose home was destroyed in the typhoon, says “Good thing the president of the persons with disabilities organisation (DPO) in our barangay told us that CBM would distribute relief packs. It was a huge blessing to us. We were short on rice and CBM was able to provide it to us.”

While it will most likely take a few years for communities to fully recover from the effects of Haiyan, CBM is tackling the need to rebuild as an opportunity to rebuild better. This means rebuilding not just houses and schools, but making sure employment opportunities, communities and services all become more accessible to people living with disabilities.

No Comments

No More Avoidable Blindness – World Sight Day 2014

9 October, 2014 - Steph Gaut

As World Sight Day comes around again, we’re getting into the spirit of things by saying “No more Avoidable Blindness.”

That’s the 2014 call to action from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, together with the World Health Organisation.

This theme draws attention to key interventions that are crucial to the success of one of the universal eye health targets – a reduction in avoidable blindness by 25% by 2019.

Global statistics suggest that in places like Ethiopia, up to 80% of vision impairment and related eye health issues are preventable or treatable.

At CBM, we know that cataract is the world’s leading cause of blindness. And we also know that it’s one of the most easily treatable forms of blindness. That’s why we work in the poorest places to restore the gift of sight through cataract surgery.

There’s more to universal eye health than just treatment – so we’re working to prevent avoidable blindness too, by making sure communities have access to much-needed medication and hygiene strategies that can help prevent blindness-causing diseases such as Trachoma or River Blindness.

But what about the remaining 20% of people who live with untreatable blindness or vision impairment? This is where we focus on disability-inclusive eye health – working with other disability organisations, governments and local partners to promote disability-inclusive access, good quality outcomes and a long-term improvement in the quality of life for people living with vision impairment.

Often, people with disabilities miss out on accessing essential eye health services, because of a variety of barriers such as physical barriers and negative attitudes. But by encouraging eye services to consider disability inclusion, we’re ensuring that even the most marginalised can have access to critical eye health treatment and services to help end the cycle of poverty and disability.

A cycle of poverty and disability exists – and it affects millions of people around the world. Nearly 80% of all people with disability live in developing countries, where they are more likely to live in poverty as they are often excluded from education and employment opportunities, have poorer access to quality health care and often cannot access rehabilitation services.

On the other hand, people living in poverty are more likely to acquire a disability due to lack of quality healthcare, water and sanitation or unsafe work practices. Simple strategies to ensure people with disability are included in healthcare programs can have a huge impact in helping to break the cycle of poverty and disability.

Hadiya has her eyes examined as part of CBM’s work in Ethiopia to prevent avoidable blindness.


Hadiya’s story:

Nine-year-old Hadiya used to shield her eyes, desperately trying to soothe the burning pain of Trachoma. And every day she was slowly, painfully heading towards irreversible blindness. Thankfully, antibiotics is a proven strategy for fighting the active trachoma infection, and keeping a child safe from trachoma.

Together with our supporters, CBM was able to get the vital antibiotics to Hadiya’s village in Ethiopia in time, stopping the Trachoma infection in its tracks and preventing a lifetime of pain and blindness.

Now, Hadiya, and other children just like her, have a brighter future ahead!

You can find out more about what CBM is doing to promote inclusive eye health at

No Comments

International Week of the Deaf – Strengthening Human Diversity

23 September, 2014 - Philip Waters

For the International Week of the Deaf 2014, one of our amazing Programme Officers, Philip Waters, talks about diversity at the workplace among deaf communities around the world.


Inclusion at CBM

This image shows Philip Waters smiling at the camera

Philip Waters during a project visit in Luzhou, China in September 2013

©Susan Emerson

I am a Program Officer of Philippines, Indonesia and China for CBM in Australia. CBM Australia is very supportive by providing sign language interpreters both in the office and to accompany me when I travel. We also have annual deaf awareness training with some Australian Sign Language lessons.
Internationally, there are at least 5 deaf and hard of hearing staff working for CBM with various roles such as a Senior Technical Advisor, Assistant Officer for Inclusive Development, Project Coordination Manager and Administrative Officer.


Restrictive attitudes must change
Human diversity of peoples around the world is mirrored by the diversity within the deaf community. Deaf people have a diverse range of employments just like everyone else. Common perceptions around the world exists that without speech, it is not possible for deaf people to be educated or have meaningful employment. Many societies believe deaf men can only do physical labour or trades such as carpentry or motor repairs. As for deaf women, jobs are limited to painting, drawing or sewing. These attitudes can be very restrictive and place a barrier to achieving a greater range of human diversity.


 This image shows Philip Waters with other CBM staff and partner staff in Xinjiang, China in September 2013.

Right to meaningful employment
Article 27 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities relates to the rights of deaf people to meaningful employment, which also includes access to training and workplace modifications to enable deaf people to work. Additionally the International Labour Organization has also set standards for people with disabilities and employment.
In fact, deaf people can and do a wide range of jobs. Listed are examples of jobs deaf people exercise with an example of a well-known deaf person:
  • Dentist – Dr Steven Rattner
  • Sky diver – John Woo
  • Actress – Marlee Matlin
  • University President – Dr Robert Davila
  • Head Chef at JW Marriot in China – Sean Han
  • Lawyer – Rebecca Adam
  • EU Member of Parliament – The Hon Dr Adam Kosa
  • Emergency Services – Andrew Welshe
  • Philosopher – Dr Teresa Blankmeyer Burke
  • US Army Cadet – Private Pete Nolan
  • Street Performer – Tie Feng
  • Olympian – Dean Barton-Smith
  • Journalist – Dawn Jani Birley
  • Film maker – Samuel Dore
  • Regional Policy and Campaigns Manager – Washington Opiyo
And the list goes on. All of these people are deaf and use sign language as their first language. By removing barriers in education and employment, deaf people have shown they can and do anything.
Kentalis International in association with CBM has recently launched a videofeaturing deaf role models in Kenya. Successful deaf professionals share their stories about how they achieved their goals. Have a look!


No Comments