GRACE Association Pakistan together with the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Development Program Pakistan (LCDDP) have, through their small business initiative, demonstrated that these people's potential, when they are given the chance to participate, is outstanding.
GRACE and LCDDP most recent small-scale business project was introduced in the isolated mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan. A great number of people with disabilities applied to participate in the program and access educational, business and health care assistance. (Further to this, GRACE has a list of about 300 people with disabilities seeking assistance, and the number is growing each year as GRACE volunteers conduct surveys.)
Eighteen disabled people with a diverse range of existing skills were selected to participate, proposing to start up such businesses as tailoring enterprises, small stationery and cosmetics shops, typing and printing services for nearby schools, and even a community rental scheme for an apricot seed cutting machine.
GRACE gave these people a boost in their chosen professions by arranging, with LCDDP, for the distribution of sewing machines, an apricot seed cutting machine, stationery shop items, cosmetics and a computer, during a special event on September 6, 2011.
GRACE Association Pakistan founder and chief executive Khadim Hussain said the organisation was committed to "HELPING PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES".
"GRACE understands the problems of people with disabilities in Skardu Baltistan region, where 11 per cent of the population has a disability due to tough climatic conditions, border wars between India and Pakistan, mining and lack of access to health facilities," Mr Hussain said. "This is worsen by local beliefs that disabilities are God's punishment for a parent's, or disabled person's."
He said that GRACE Association would advocate on behalf of people with disabilities in Baltistan for better access to health, education and business opportunities as well as lobbying Skardu's district administration, district health officer, medical superintendent, district headquarter hospital and social welfare officers as well as National Councils for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Islamabad to obtain special computerised national identity cards for people with disabilities. "This is just the beginning of our work in this field, and once we see that people participating in the program are demonstrating good results, we will expand this project for other in the region, in cooperation with supporting organisations." he said.
GRACE will continue to update its supporters on the progress of this project, and will conduct regular visits to the program participants and their parents in order to gauge their performance and provide technical assistance, if necessary.
GRACE endeavours to empower and improve the quality of life of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the least developed parts of Pakistan through welfare, participatory research and development, capacity building, promotion of best practices and partnership building, advocacy, and by launching sustainable and replicable innovative projects.