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We Can! Wellness Center - South Sudan

We Can! Wellness Center is a place where people with all disabilities can find a sense of belonging, a viable income, and better health.

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What problem does your idea solve?

We Can! Wellness Center addresses the 3 goals of this challenge: 1) ECONOMIC: addresses need for many PWD to make a living; 2) PRODUCTS & SERVICES: provides wellness services for PWD and offers in-demand services to the community at large; 3) STIGMA: will reduce stigma by promoting the “We Can!” factor- inherently showing customers first-hand the “able” side of PWD, thereby countering the negative association that the term “dis-abled” often projects, social marketing/promotion of We Can

Explain your idea

The We Can! Wellness Center will be a holistic wellness center whose primary beneficiaries and operators are people with disabilities. Currently Seeing Hands is a massage therapy center run by visually impaired individuals in Juba, South Sudan. We Can! would be an expansion of this model, to include deaf and speech impaired employees as well as those with other disabilities, and would include additional income generating activities and services. We Can!, as is illustrated in the User Experience Map above, will tailor its program to each individual’s wants, needs, and aspirations. During the first meeting, a “Candidate Profile” will be filled out and a tailored plan will be drawn up. Training will include both vocational skills training and any communication or mobility training that is required. Using Ayen as an example, she would be trained in customer service skills as well as proper food-handling. We Can! services would include: A vision center, a prosthetics/orthotics referral center, a café, a crafts center and shop, a nursery, and a transport service. All would be accessible to the general public and would be the principle income drivers for the organization as a whole. In addition to income generation, the center would provide people with different disabilities a sense of community. Employees would have staff/member access to an interfaith counseling center, recreation center, and adult education classes at the existing REJAF education center.

Who benefits?

We Can!’s primary beneficiaries will be people with disabilities living in Juba and the surrounding area. In the future, we hope to expand into other states and IDP camps. Seeing Hands already exists in Juba and currently benefits both the visually impaired massage therapists (income), and their customers, the majority of which are relief & humanitarian workers. We would expand the client base with a transport service, cafe, & nursery-- at affordable prices for South Sudanese.

How is your idea unique?

The We Can! Wellness Center will be the first of its kind in South Sudan, benefitting those with all types of disabilities. It will provide not only income, but transferable skills, empowerment, and a sense of belonging and community as well. The visibility of the We Can! brand will work to decrease stigma by virtue of the fact the disabled will be helping the abled public through valued products and services, something that Seeing Hands has proven small scale. By working in tandem with the existing REJAF school for the blind and deaf, and building alongside the campus, the educational center and We Can! will complement each others’ services. We plan to be nimble and change course if needed. For example, if we need to add a new income generation activity, we could adopt Not Impossible Lab’s “BUILD” model--a mobile adaptive technology lab they devised to create solar products, home items, or a prosthetic limb from locally sourced resources that can fit in a shoe-box!

Tell us more about you

I’m a “social change” agent who has worked in international development communications for several years. I encountered Seeing Hands and was immediately taken with the team and their mission. Seeing Hands was founded by Father John Barth of Maryknoll Society-- a Catholic charity. I’m a social behavior change specialist, and led “Respect & Respond,” a social norms campaign for the IRC to reduce violence against women and stigma for survivors in South Sudan:

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

What typically sidelines projects in South Sudan are both natural and man-made disasters. For this reason, it’s important to identify monitoring and implementing partners with well-developed contingency plans and consistent guidelines for building-out programs. While we don’t want WeCan! to be burdened by unnecessary bureaucracy, we want to ensure transparency, accountability, and proper use of funds. I worked with the local government of South Sudan on a $95M project monitored by the World Bank, with various implementing partners. While certainly more complex than the WeCan! project, it reinforced my belief in the importance of establishing proper checks & balances and identifying a project manager with the necessary competencies.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • South Sudan

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are not formally registered but are a formal initiative through an accelerator, hub, or other entity.

Idea Maturity

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

We collected feedback from the disabled community in South Sudan, comments from the IDEO community, and consulted with various experts, including small business /livelihood experts in international development. They indicated that the following services would likely be economically viable as well as desired by the disabled community. All will be managed via an integrated & accessible intake/program management/menu and payment platform, and available for the general public unless otherwise noted. Departments will be built in phases, with capacity/skills building first: 1) Seeing Hands Massage Center 2) Nursery (sign & braille instruction for children of employees and community) 3) Café 4) Transport service (adapted van for People with Disabilities (PWD) & Tuk Tuks) 5) Crafts Center and Shop Staff only: 6) Interfaith Counseling Service 7) Aids for all PWD (Hearing, Sight, Mobility, i.e. canes, wheelchairs, etc) 8) Orthotic/Prosthetic Referrals 9) Recreation Center

Who will implement this idea?

We are in discussions with several large, reputable locally-based organizations focusing on PWD to act as a monitoring partner/pass through org or implementing partner. The list of organizations at the end of this proposal is only a partial list of these organizations I’ve spoken to (CEO or ED), and we’re very confident that we will get these partners on board. Already committed: REJAF school for the Blind & Deaf, the MoGSC, Seeing Hands, Women with Disabilities Network, Light for the World.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

As mentioned above, we are discussing with several organizations to act as implementing or monitoring Partners. We believe that having this opportunity to choose our partners is a plus, as this way we are able to find a team of orgs that will be diverse in strengths, e.g. : reputation and experience on the ground, adaptability to change and modification, sense of experimentation, fiduciary responsibility, and evidence-based impact. Should we be successful, ideally IDEO would be part of this decision and our organizational make-up would be tailored to the needs of the project and realities on the ground. As for the disabled population, we already have the commitment of Seeing Hands, the head of the REJAF School, and the leader of the Women with Disabilities Network to act as advisors.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

I am familiar with IDEO and have done various “pop-up” challenges at workshops I’ve attended in the past. What I like about it is the “can do” attitude and sense of collaboration that reminds me of my days in the Peace Corps. You can really do a lot with very little money, with ingenuity and capable people on the ground. Fundamental to HCD is starting with the user, or audience first. I have witnessed this many times in the programs and projects I’ve developed and implemented globally!

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

South Sudan is easily one of the most difficult places on earth to be disabled. We hear most from the disabled in South Sudan about their struggles with communication and mobility. Let’s go through a typical day. Transportation, if you have a wheelchair or mobility device, is not even available for you as taxis are limited to boda bodas (motorcycles) and maybe a tuk tuk. The majority of the population is illiterate, making the consequence of a communication-related disability all the more profound, both at home and at work. Disabled individuals do not only lack income, they also lack training, basic literacy & communication skills, a peer support system and in many cases, a friend. WeCan! will remedy this. Re: Answers to “organization” Qs below are based on anticipated partners

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

QUESTION: How do we build a strong & flexible business model that will weather South Sudan’s volatile political climate and fragile economic state and build local capacity for sustained success? IMPACT: By 2022 We Can! Wellness Center will be operating in Juba and 3 other states in South Sudan, providing livelihoods to over 1000 disabled persons, & products & services to over 250,000 via access to transport, mobility aids, vision & hearing services, and basic literacy/braille/sign classes.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Between 6 months and 1 year

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below. (Idea Popper) (Seeing Hands) (Advising Partner, potential Monitoring Partner) (REJAF School & MofGender, Child and Social Welfare - Implementing Partners) (Potential Implementing Partner) (Potential Implementing Partner) (Potential Implementing Partner)
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Attachments (4)



South Sudan: People with Disabilities, Older People Face Danger | Human Rights Watch.pdf

May 31, 2017- An article released by Human Rights Watch yesterday shows just how desperate the situation is for South Sudan’s disabled population: South Sudan: People with Disabilities, Older People Face Danger

!We Can! Wellness Center_ User_Experience Map.pdf

The WeCan! Candidate Experience Map


This is a grant proposal for the Northern California Peace Corps Association for Seeing Hands Massage, just to give you an idea of how long I’ve been working with them.


Join the conversation:

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This project is coming at a time when the needs of people with disabilities are being recognized with the completion of the South Sudan National Disability and Inclusion Policy. Reducing stigma and promoting inclusion in livelihoods is an important step in meeting these needs and fulfilling the inclusive requirements laid out in this policy. Handicap International is pleased to see this initiative and will be happy to offer advice on inclusive services and economic empowerment as needed.

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