Inclusive, Enabling Communities

Inclusive, Enabling Communities
Learning Brief

Nkosinathi Foundation of and for Blind and Partially Sighted People

Better partnerships needed to serve partially sighted people

Category: Inclusive, Enabling Communities | People with disabilities | 25 December, 2014 - 06:00


Project context

The Nkosinathi Foundation supports blind and partially sighted people to overcome the challenges of being blind and to reach their full potential by providing independent living skills training and supportive services.

Approximately 90% of rural blind and partially sighted people in South Africa have no access to rehabilitation services. To begin addressing this needed for services in the Eastern Cape Province, the Nkosinathi Foundation facilitates a rural outreach programme that recruits, trains, and employs community field workers. These field workers live and work in their respective communities, where they provide basic rehabilitation and related support services to blind and partially sighted individuals.

Project goal

The goal of our rural outreach project is “to provide rehabilitation and independence training for blind and partially sighted people living in rural areas of the Eastern Cape.” Our fieldworks aim to help these visually impaired people receive rehabilitation training, become more independent, move about freely in their communities using white canes, and begin to interact with their community members and take part in community activities.

Our service model

Our model is designed to first provide intensive service coverage to address the backlog of need. Then, once the primary needs of the blind and partially sighted have been addressed and they are better equipped to support themselves we scale back our operations. Thus, we begin by employing many fieldworkers until the need for services in the area is sufficiently reduced and can be managed by one of our small satellite service offices. At this point a satellite office for the entire region is set up and only one or two community field workers remain employed to maintain on-going services, particularly focused on newly blinded people.

Our experience suggests that this model works and can be replicated throughout rural South Africa. We currently work in three regions; the first being our oldest site, and the third being the youngest. We have tested our model in each of these regions and the results are as follows:

  • The first region we targeted was Koukamma. After initial intensive outreach the need in the area has now stabilised and we have successfully established a satellite point in Region 1. One community field worker easily attends to any remaining rehabilitation and related services needs of the blind and partially sighted people in the entire region. There is no longer any backlog of needs.
  • The second region, Kouga, is in the intermediate phase of our outreach plan. We have managed to reduce the number of community field workers because they have begun to address the backlog of need. Going forward, the next step is to establish a Satellite Point in Region 2 and leave only one community field worker to attend to the rehabilitation and related needs of the blind.
  • The third region, Sundays River Valley, is a very new site where we work. We have made the appropriate entrance into the community, recruited and trained the new rural community field workers, and have started to identify the blind and partially sighted people in the area and their rehabilitation and service needs.

Supporting the community field workers

The Nkosinathi Foundation is dedicated to supporting the community field workers by offering initial workshop training hosted by professionals, providing on-going field training and supervision, and supplying mentoring oversight.

Building partnerships for the future

In regions where no previous rehabilitation services existed, the Nkosinathi Foundation’s Rural Project has reached a remarkable 260 people in the past year. Unfortunately, the pace of reaching these rural blind people is still far too slow and we are very aware that all the work cannot be done by one small NGO alone.

However, possibilities for collaboration with other entitles are limited at this point. The Nkosinathi Foundation is the only NGO of its kind in the Eastern Cape providing comprehensive rehabilitation services, and we have been unable to find adequate partner organisations to work with. If your organisation is interested in forming a partnership with us please feel free to contact us.

In the meantime we are collaborating with the organisation, Sabona Sonke, to assist in the development of the Department of Health’s “Eye Care Rehabilitation Plan”. We have suggested ways to institute effective measures of delivering rehabilitation services in the province. Moreover, we have assisted the Department by training 20 trainee ophthalmic nurses from the Department of Health’s Lilitha College on working with the partially sighted in rural settings.

Finally, although our Foundation’s rural project serves to complement government efforts to service the blind, the need still far outweighs the supply. While the Nkosinathi Foundation can and does provide services to many people, we believe that the answer for rehabilitation and integration into communities for rural blind and partially sighted people lies with government departments – in particular with the Department of Health. Rehabilitation community field workers should be trained and employed by this department and placed at clinics serving rural areas throughout the Eastern Cape. Our organisations remains committed to advocating and lobbying for this cause.


In this learning brief we have discussed our model rural outreach programme that recruits, trains, and employs community field workers to provide basic rehabilitation and related support services to blind and partially sighted individuals. After outlining our goals and service strategy we indicated that effective service requires greater partnership with other service-NGOs and government departments. However, collaboration practices in caring for the blind are still very new and under-developed, impeding effective service delivery to those who need it most. In the future we aim to strengthen such partnership possibilities and encourage interested parties to contact us about the work we do.

Nkosinathi Foundation of and for Blind and Partially Sighted People

58 (b) Kirkwood StreetPort ElizabethNorth EndEastern CapeSouth Africa


In Short

In this learning brief the Nkosinathi Foundation discusses the need for greater collaboration practices between care-NGOs and government departments in providing basic rehabilitation and support services to blind and partially sighted individuals. Other organisations wishing to join a community of practice in this service sector will enjoy learning about Nkosinathi Foundation’s rural outreach model, and about ways to get involved in future partnerships.

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