Inclusive, Enabling Communities

Inclusive, Enabling Communities
Learning Brief

Nkosinathi Foundation of & for Blind & Partially Sighted People

When smaller is better: perfecting the quality of service provision to blind South Africans

Category: Inclusive, Enabling Communities | People with disabilities | 14 August, 2013 - 20:00


The Nkosinathi Foundation provides services to children and adults to meet the challenges associated with significant visual loss, enabling them to reach their full potential. Nkosinathi was founded in Port Elizabeth in 1948 by a small group of blind people with the purpose of offering support to newly blinded people in any way possible. Over the years the foundation has grown and is managed by a Board, of which 60% are blind or partially sighted. This board employs professionals to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services to any blind or partially sighted person in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa.

The Nkosinathi Foundation’s decade-old, Rural Outreach Programme recruits, trains, and employs local community members as specialised home-care Fieldworkers. These Fieldworkers live and work in their respective communities, serving blind and partially sighted people needing rehabilitation. We train and employ sufficient Fieldworkers in each geographic area to saturate the care-needs of the area.  Once enough Fieldworkers have been recruited, we scale back on the number of recruits and establish a satellite office, staffed by one individual who is responsible for serving the needs of the remaining and future individuals.

Our project is successful because it has:

  1. Offered rehabilitation and support services to blind and partially sighted people in their home environment where they previously had no access to such services.
  2. Helped many blind and partially sighted people regain their independence and resume meaningful roles in their families and communities.
  3. Increased individual and communities awareness of the needs and the abilities of blind and partially sighted people. More awareness increases tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of blind people as they take up a place within the community.


The Nkosinathi Foundation’s aim is to serve with quality. This means that our model is small-scale as well as time and labour intensive. We focus our efforts on a few rural areas and try to reach all the blind or partially sighted individuals in these communities. This limits our scope for scaling up efforts and it is unlikely that, as a small NGO, we will be able to find the necessary resources to provide the same quality services to all rural parts of the Eastern Cape.

Roughly 50,456 are visually impaired in the Eastern Cape Province, and we are not serving enough of them. It is also estimated that 60 % of these blind people are over the age of 60 years. With the right kind of Orientation and Mobility training many of these individuals can become independent members of their communities, with the need for only very limited assistance.

Unfortunately our operation is not capable of training enough fieldworks to conduct this Orientation and Mobility instruction for all who need it.


In order to help us expand out program operations and reach more blind people in the rural Eastern Cape, we have approached the Department of Health with a view to asking them to take over the project operations. We have demonstrated the success of our program model by faithfully providing rehabilitation services to 1,834 blind people living in rural Eastern Cape through our community-based fieldworker initiative. Our rural outreach project is a proven, viable option for service delivery, and goes a long way to alleviating the current backlog of rehabilitation services for blind people. 

Yet, in order to scale-up the reach of service delivery to meet the needs of the currently 50,456 visually impaired people in the province, we believe that government must step in. We have approached the Department of Health in this regard. Our suggestion is that, using the Orientation and Mobility curricula, they train their 3,668 community health workers – employed by the department of health and supervised by rural clinic nurses – to deliver care and support to blind and partially sighted individuals throughout the province. This will expand the reach of care for these people and promote awareness of blindness.

Nkosinathi Foundation of & for Blind & Partially Sighted People

58B Kirkwood Street, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape  

 (041) 487 1150

In Short

The Nkosinathi Foundation has mastered the delivery of high-quality rehabilitation services and Independence Training to 1,834 blind people living in rural and peri-urban areas of the Eastern Cape. Learn about the success of this community-based fieldworker strategy. Also learn about the challenges that this organisation has faced in dealing with provincial government and getting government to support such a vital initiative.

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