Shannon Morgan

Project Co-ordinator, Rural Ability Programme

A few days before her interview with the M&G a woman trained by Shannon Morgan, a young occupational therapist, told Morgan that she found a boy who had epilepsy in a rural village and referred him on for appropriate treatment.

The boy had been having fits three times a week and will now get treatment. “We’re really saving that child’s brain,” Morgan says. “That is a really powerful thought.”

This is what the Eastern Cape therapist is working to achieve as the project co-ordinator at the Rural Ability Programme, a project of the NGO Jabulani Rural Health Foundation.

This recently established community-based programme aims to help people with disabilities. “We’re trying to improve quality of life,” she says. “We have trained five women to pilot the programme in five areas.”

The women are able to identify people with disabilities and refer them for the right treatment; the programme also seeks to help them to overcome problems and assess what skills and abilities they have that could be built on to create an income stream and a sense of dignity.

For children with disabilities in rural areas, access to education is a problem that the Rural Ability Programme will be tackling.

Apart from assisting a group of people who are often highly marginalised, the programme has an impact on the women Morgan has trained. “It’s so great to be empowering women,” she says.

“Their families are so proud and so supportive – one of them told me how her husband woke her up during training so she wouldn’t be late. Now they have the confidence to stand in front of their community and say ‘This who I am and this is what I can offer’.”

Morgan is passionate about rural work and hopes that this project will serve as a model for community-based rehabilitation in South Africa, which she sees as a human rights issue. “This is definitely what I want to be doing long-term,” Morgan says. “I don’t see myself working in a city.’ — Mandi Smallhorne