Independent Living

Roukiatou was born with a congenital mobility impairment. A community-based rehabilitation worker put her on a path of self-reliance and independence.

Photo: Roukiatou with her family

CBR - Towards an independent life

Light for the World supports community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programmes in the most remote rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) is a cost-effective sustainable intervention developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families, meet their basic needs and ensure their inclusion in society.

CBR is a multi-disciplinary approach which works in the areas of education, health, livelihood, inclusion in social life and empowerment.

Community health workers are trained to identify the beneficiaries who are often hidden by their families and to give them the necessary support which will enable them to become self-reliant individuals, escape the vicious circle of poverty and have equal opportunities to quality education, gainful employment and health services.

Through these programmes, children receive regular visits from CBR workers in their homes rather than getting treatment in institutions, away from families. CBR workers evaluate the individual needs of children. For example, the child might require immediate medical attention, physiotherapy, crutches, a wheelchair, hearing aids or spectacles. In addition, CBR workers show parents how they can support and strengthen their child who has cerebral palsy or deformed legs with specific physiotherapy exercises.

CBR also has a positive impact on the inclusion of disabled people within a community. The programmes take place directly in the village, in order to involve parents, friends, and neighbours.

What we do

  • We give individual care at home.
  • We work with local education, vocational training, and health ministries to ensure that they include children and youth with disabilities in their programmes.
  • We involve parents, neighbours and friends to change the common perception that disability is a curse on the family.
  • We work with schools, teachers, employers, and providers of vocational training to ensure that they keep welcoming children and youth with disabilities in their establishments.
  • We advocate for rights of persons with disabilities by contributing to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the media: Prof. Tom Shakespeare reports on his visit to our CBR programme in Mozambique

In October 2010, WHO, UNESCO, ILO, and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) approved a new set of CBR Guidelines. As part of IDDC, Light for the World was involved in developing these guidelines. We have produced a CBR Training Manual. CBR can also have a global impact by contributing to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Livelihood programmes

Disability and poverty are closely linked. An estimated 1 billion people (15% of the world’s population) live with disabilities and 80 per cent of them live in developing countries. Ironically, people with disabilities are often left out of economic development programmes, while they belong to the poorest of the poor. Focusing on inclusion in poverty reduction programmes and economic development programmes will directly impact the lives of people with disabilities. It is not a surprise that disabled people's organisations in developing countries often mention access to livelihood opportunities as their first priority. This can break the vicious cycle of poverty and disability can be broken. 

Light for the World supports and empowers people with disabilities in making their own living. We remove the barriers that prohibit their equal participation in economic development. Involvement in economic development means much more than gaining access to income: it also has a very positive impact on social inclusion. When people with disabilities are able to generate their own income, their status in the household and the community improves and their self-esteem and empowerment get a natural boost.

"Now that I have the job, I am so proud when I leave early in the morning and come back at the end of the day. Words are not enough to describe how I feel. I notice that I have started looking at people; and they look at me. We communicate. It is different. For me this job is not even about the money, it is about the mind. I can now socialize with other people..."

-Participant of the EmployAble programme in Ethiopia 

By focusing on the inclusion of people with a disability in economic development we directly contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal 8 on inclusive economic growth. Article 27 of the UNCRPD on Work and Employment and article 28 on the adequate standard of living are our guiding principles. Light for the World implements programmes that focus on food security, vocational training & employment, entrepreneurship & access to finance and inclusive value chains. 

Food security 

People living in extreme poverty first need to secure their daily consumption needs before they can graduate out of poverty. Livelihood programmes aim to improve the food security situation of these households. Common activities covered in livelihood programmes are group formation, empowerment, confidence building, asset and skills transfer, and savings. Together with ICCO Cooperation and The Leprosy Mission, and with support from the European Union, we implemented a joint food security programme in Bangladesh (2009-2013) where about 4,000 women with disabilities were included. On the basis of this experience, we have developed a practical guideline for the inclusion of people with disabilities in food security programmes. But there is still a lot to do. One possibility is the up-scaling and translation of lessons learned into large-scale government programmes on poverty reduction. 

Vocational training & employment

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) help young people to learn a trade and enables them to find a job or to start their own business. They, therefore, get the opportunity to earn a solid income and improve their living conditions. In our multi-country EmployAble programme, we developed innovative solutions to create increased access to technical and vocational education for young people with disabilities. The results and lessons learned of the first phase are documented in “I am EmployAble”. Also on the process of employment of persons with disabilities Light for the World has been able to take significant steps together with employers, as is demonstrated in Make 12.4% Work and the second phase of EmployAble

Entrepreneurship & access to financial services 

Self-employment in the informal sector is an important survival strategy for people with disabilities. Because of the lack of access to education and formal employment, the informal sector is often their only refuge. Lack of access to credit is another barrier. Like many other people in the informal sector, disabled entrepreneurs benefit from business training and access to small loans. In Kenya Light for the World is spearheading the InBusiness programme to create market linkages for 500 micro-entrepreneurs to companies. 

Inclusive business and value chain development

Public-private partnerships are booming. Inclusive business development, marketing for the poor and value chain development are hot topics today. These innovative, promising initiatives intent to reach out to the people living at the bottom of the income pyramid. The big question is, however, whether people belonging to marginalised groups, the poorest of the poor, are able to benefit since such initiatives are often focused on the people who are a bit better off.  In order for businesses, disabled people’s organisations, governments and NGOs to get together to develop and test new strategies to solve this puzzle, Light for the World is setting up new programmes on inclusive value chains.

Sander Schot -

Sander Schot

s.schot [at]
Portrait of Marieke Boersma. Credit: Jaco Klamer

Director Disability Inclusion in Community Development: Marieke Boersma

+251 920 65 65 11
m.boersma [at]

What we do

Maoué smiles after cataract surgery

Maoué's smile has returned. Thanks to Light for the World's medical outreach programme she is once again in charge of her daily life. Cataract surgery has enabled her to care for her children again.

Martine Bilgo gives interviews Photo: M.Bron

Martine once was a client in one of our CBR projects. She successfully graduated to become a teacher. Today she works in a school which is linked to a Light for the World CBR project.

Igliassu is playing with his school friends

A year ago, Igliassu could not walk because one of his legs was much shorter than the other. LIGHT FOR THE WORLD helped him enrol in an inclusive school together with his peers.