Merphilus on a Mission of Empowerment
August 9, 2022
Merphilus James, President of the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities in Saint Lucia is on a mission to redefine how persons with disabilities are recognized in the society. Using a prosthetic leg from the age of 4, Merphilus understands first-hand the difficulties faced by persons with physical impairments. He recounted his journeys as a child to the neighbouring island of Martinique to receive his prosthesis and explained that in addition to the high cost of securing a limb, his family was also faced with the cost of travel and accommodation several times throughout his childhood. On securing the position of President of the Association, he was given the unique opportunity to do his part in remedying this situation for other Saint Lucians.
“The UNDP has assisted our organisation tremendously in enhancing our prosthetic manufacturing service. Through a recent grant we were able to procure more material and equipment”, he stated. The current influx of UNDP funding has allowed the centre to provide much needed assistance to five men and five women who would not have been able to shoulder the cost of obtaining artificial limbs. Due to Saint Lucia’s high diabetic rate, amputations are unfortunately frequent in the island with diabetic amputation being the cause of limb loss for 8 out of the 10 beneficiaries. Launched in 2019, the Prosthetic and Rehabilitation Centre “literally puts people back on their feet” Merphilus explained noting that the 4 technicians were trained by a US Specialist and that three of the four are all prostheses-users.
Speaking to NCPD’s mission of empowerment, Merphilus explained, “Here at the NCPD we seek to empower our members in such a manner that they become self-advocates. They can represent themselves; they show that they are not just waiting on charity but are able to make a meaningful contribution to society. For a very long time, people with disabilities were seen merely as objects of charity, but technology especially, has paved the way for people with disabilities, even a paraplegic, to make a meaningful contribution.”
Merphilus further applauded the support that UNDP has provided to persons living with disabilities and was pleased to highlight the collaborative approach taken by the development agency. “Nothing about us without us,” he stated, adding “too many times we see donor agencies, that seem to think that they know what is best for our community without consulting with us, but UNDP did it the correct way.” Through collaboration, UNDP ascertained that the best place to provide support was to the Prosthetic and Rehabilitative Centre. With a budget of $50,000 the centre was able to procure the materials and equipment required to produce prostheses for ten beneficiaries at no cost to the recipients. This work is a continuation of the support started in 2018 when UNDP partnered with the NCPD and the OECS Commission to conduct local training of persons in the production of basic prosthetic limbs.
"This has been an amazing journey and we are very pleased to be able to support those with disabilities in this direct, tangible way," said Jason LaCorbiniere the head of the Poverty, Governance and Monitoring and Evaluation Cluster. "We look forward to continuing to work with the NCPD to support the most vulnerable in our communities"
This project is part of the work of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in its commitment to promoting economic diversification, job creation and resilience with the "Blue Economy for Green Islands" vision. As the Caribbean continues to seek solutions to build resilience and improve livelihoods for traditionally vulnerable groups, UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in partnership with governments and stakeholders, remains dedicated to the advancement of inclusive and sustainable development throughout the region and building resilient communities that can withstand shocks and crises through targeted projects and programmes.
UNDP is the leading United Nations organisation fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated lasting solutions for people and planet. Learn more at www.bb.undp.org or follow at @UNDPBarbados
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