One in 10 people live with a disability in the Northern province


The two trainers

B.J Sudharshan

by Elina Sundqvist

Since the war ended, many people have been left with spinal cord injuries and other similar disabilities. Through a Micro Project implemented by the German Embassy, Motivation Sri Lanka has included 50 wheelchairs in a grant of Rs. 1,965,000.00 to be used for peer group training.

"We have identified over 200 people living with spinal cord injuries in the Northern province and a wheelchair can only be used for 5-6 years. The need for wheelchairs is still strong and the number of people damaging their spinal cords in road traffic accidents is increasing." said B.J. Sudharshan, Country Manager of Motivation Sri Lanka.

At the Motivation Sri Lanka Centre at Kiribathgoda, people with spinal cord injuries caused by the war are treated and taught how to adapt to life in a wheelchair. The Centre was established by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in 2010 and maintained specifically for wound care. After two years, in 2012, MSF vacated the Centre, which at the time had 20 patients.

"The Centre was abandoned. All the patients admitted at the time were sent back to their homes", Sudharshan said.

The Centre re-opened with support from the Ministry of Health. The facility’s primary focus is peer group training and wound care. "We have two peer group trainers, one male and a female. They underwent the Motivation PGT training and now they train other people with spinal cord injuries on how to manage their bladder and bowel control, how to prevent pressure sores and other complications", he explained.

Sudharshan emphasized the importance of peer group training, saying they had noticed that without proper training, patients would refrain from using the wheelchair in their homes.

The teachers, Jayakanthan and Mrs R. Thusyanthy were both injured in a bomb blast in 2009. "We train people who come here to manage on their own and to overcome whatever difficulties they may have", Jayakanthan said.

Motivation Sri Lanka has an outdoor Wheel Chair Skills Training Area, where the patients, with assistance from the teachers, can practice maneuvering the wheelchair through different terrains and obstacles. Motivation Sri Lanka also has a wall with cabinet knobs, power buttons and water taps to help the patients understand their new reachability.

"Here at the Centre it’s more fancy. We have all the accessible features, but when they go to their homes they don’t have any of them", Sudharshan said. The Motivation Wheelchairs are specifically designed for people with spinal cord injuries and are built to handle rough terrains.

At the Centre, they have two types of patients, long term and short term. Some of the patients develop deeper pressure sores and stay at the Centre for longer periods. Other patients come in for more superficial wounds, get training and stay for about a week. "When a person gets a spinal cord injury, they’re referred to the Centre from Vavuniya District General Hospital. If we have vacant beds they can come here and get treated. At the moment we have 15 patients."


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