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Disability Is Not Inability

Did you know that people living with disabilities make up 16% of the world’s population? That’s 1 in 6 of us. And yet, in communities across the globe, people living with disabilities are often pushed to the edges of society. They face significant barriers to participating in their communities and accessing critical care, putting them at greater risk of violence, exploitation, poor health and poverty.

Thankfully, God wrote a different story for Boniface in Malawi.

Born with a disability that robbed him of his sight, Boniface found solace in singing. Although he had big dreams and longed to get married and start a family, his disability cast a shadow over his life. In 5th grade, he was forced to drop out of school due to a lack of resources, depriving him of a quality education. As an adult, his fields were robbed by those who could not see past his disability. 

But things changed when Boniface’s church participated in World Relief’s disability inclusion training

After being trained, church leaders invited Boniface and others like him to participate in church activities, including taking on leadership roles like preaching, praying and, most importantly for Boniface, singing. What’s more, church leaders formed support groups for those with disabilities and began reshaping the way community members viewed those living with disabilities. 

“World Relief came and opened our eyes to see the most vulnerable among us — people with disabilities… We have whole-heartedly embraced [Jesus’] call to care for people with disabilities in our communities.”

– Church leader in Malawi

Today, Boniface is a leader in his community. He facilitates a support group and leads worship at church. He’s also married and now has a child of his own.

At World Relief, we believe every person is created in the image of God and has inherent valueincluding those with disabilities. We envision a world where people like Boniface are seen and valued, where the church steps into its call to not only serve those with disabilities but to build communities where they, too, can unleash their God-given gifts to serve others. 

Thanks to support from people like you in FY23, we expanded our disability-inclusive programming to engage more churches and communities in reaching people like Boniface. Together, we mobilized 548 churches and trained 1879 volunteers and church leaders in Malawi, Burundi and Rwanda to reach 8,449 people!   

At World Relief, we also ensure that immigrants with disabilities have the support they need when they’re resettled in the U.S. In FY23, we assisted 147 people who were disabled or chronically ill through our Preferred Communities Program.

For us, disability inclusion is not just a program. It’s a way of living and working that infuses disability inclusion into every single aspect of our work. 

Our transformative approach starts with training our staff. Then, it extends to the heart of each community, equipping church and community leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to engage persons with disabilities and address the stigmas that exist through community dialogue forums. Church leaders also mobilize their congregations to assist persons with disabilities with things like home renovations and obtaining necessities like food and clothes. They also form support groups where people like Boniface can safely connect and deal with issues affecting them. 

Together, we’re making way for churches to step deeper into their call to love those on the margins. By working through the local church, entire communities are transformed as the gifts of every person are recognized and given space to shine!

Rachel Clair is a Content Writer at World Relief. With more than 10 years of experience creating content and leading creative teams for churches and non-profits, she is passionate about connecting people to their creative gifts and developing content that helps people see the world in new ways. She holds a BFA from Stephens College and is currently participating in a spiritual formation cohort through the Transforming Center in Wheaton, IL.

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