CHICAGO, Ill. — This June, the nonprofit organization Trickle Up was the recipient of the InterAction 2014 Disability Inclusion Award for serving people with disabilities as part of their work with the world’s poor. This isn’t the first time they’ve been recognized for working with people who have disabilities — they won the award previously in 2009.
“Working with families affected with disabilities is a core part of our commitment to support people who are marginalized and live in extreme poverty to develop the skills and confidence to become active and informed drivers of their own development,” Bill Abrams, President of Trickle Up, said in a press release.
Trickle Up’s programs are spread across Central America, West Africa and India. The organization focuses on households whose per capita income is less than $1.25 a day. They offer one-time seed capital grants that provide participants with the startup capital they need to launch or expand their microenterprises. In addition, Trickle Up offers business and livelihood training. They deliver their programs through a network of grassroots organizations on the ground that reach out and recruit participants.
Of the Trickle Up’s program participants, 15 percent have a disability or live in a family directly affected by disability. This corresponds with The World Bank and the World Health Organization’s statistic that people with disabilities represent 15 percent of the global population – 82 percent in developing countries and 20 percent living in extreme poverty.
A study by Handicap International and reported by Trickle Up highlighted the two main barriers to economic inclusion of people with disabilities. Internally, many with disabilities lack the business skills needed to succeed in many jobs, lack formal education and lack the self-confidence to propel them through the economy. Externally, many don’t have access to proper financial services, and stigmas and prejudices in the community prevent them from being a normal part of society.
The relationship between poverty and disability is tightly-knit. Disability can worsen poverty by increasing the costs of a household due to treatment. Looking after a family member with a disability can require the time of someone who would otherwise be working and earning money. Finally, people with a disability are often socially isolated within their communities.
On the flip side, living in poverty can increase the likelihood of disability because of the dangerous and unsanitary living and working conditions. This affects children when they’re young, and carries on into their adulthood. The cause and effect between poverty and disability goes both ways.
Even though such a significant population of the poor has disabilities, and it exacerbates their difficult conditions, they are underrepresented in development programs globally. AusAID estimated that existing development programs reach only 3 to 4 percent of people with disabilities.
Trickle Up is trying to change that. In 2009, they launched a project for Malian people with disabilities to have a more active role in their communities through gaining legal status as a group and training them on advocacy. Similarly, in 2010 they started a project in Guatemala to enable 320 people with disabilities to develop activities to provide a livelihood and sustain that livelihood. Both projects were USAID-funded and proved to be very successful.
A second group that the organization focuses on is women. More than 90 percent of Trickle Up program participants are women. Women’s access to capital is often restricted due to social and cultural boundaries, and they usually need more help getting started in a microenterprise.
Trickle Up empowers people across the globe living under the international standard for extreme poverty and helps them take the first steps out of poverty. As an organization with a unique strategy, it will most likely keep winning awards.
– Rachel Reed
Sources: Trickle Up 1, Trickle Up 2, The World Bank