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The establishment of USM’s community-based rehabilitation is a giant leap in confidence and quality of life for the disabled and their caregivers.

THE plight of the disabled has always tugged at heartstrings.

Such a genuine outpouring of humanity has never been more apparent than in novel initiatives that seek to mobilise various stakeholders to lend a hand in providing hope and succour to those lives blighted by the vagaries of fate.

The community-based rehabilitation (CBR), a programme pioneered by the World Health Organisation, is one such altruistic mission.

It first discovered its niche in Malaysia under the aegis of the Welfare Department which initiated its seminal project in 1984 in collaboration with the Health Ministry.

This noble effort was soon emulated by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) which formulated its own CBR project framework in line with its socially caring agenda, thus becoming the first public university in Malaysia to do so.

The CBR initiative in USM is the 25th project registered under the Penang State Social Welfare Department.

The USM main campus project is distinct for its unique focus on intellectual disability training, a first in Malaysia.


A survey conducted by USM’s human resource division revealed that 70 USM staff have disabled dependents under their care. Unfortunately, the dearth of skills has somewhat frustrated their efforts to effectively play their role as motivational parents.


This is where the institutional role of USM as a socially responsible and compassionate corporate citizen and employer comes into play.

Cognisant of its staff’s need for special care and rehabilitation knowledge, USM proposed to provide the requisite infrastructural and emotional training to assist them in caring and tending to the special needs of their dependents.

It was championed by Professor Datuk Dr Ahmad Zakaria, the former dean of the School of Health Sciences. USM CBR is indeed a journey of love and hope, in line with the Education Ministry’s cherished vision of promoting, love, happiness and mutual respect.

Essentially, the university proposes to mobilise its home-grown expertise to external care providing agencies with the noble aim of enhancing the quality of life of the impacted staff.

It is all part and parcel of the USM DNA: a unique genetic make-up that combines both knowledge and humanity to sprout hope where none exists.


With its cohort of competent academic and administrative staff, equipped with the requisite expertise related to disabled (OKU) caregiving, USM is well placed to empower the disabled via a series of holistically structured CBR initiatives.

Currently, its CBR unit comprises a physiotherapist, a medical doctor, a social worker as well experts in relevant fields such as special education.

In addition to the core group, USM had also curated a variety of OKU friendly projects and designed a set of care provider training modules to meet the specific challenges plaguing the local OKU community and their immediate families.

Expanding beyond this central core are inter-related peripheral initiatives focused on intellectual disability training, mobility provision via a wheelchair modification project in collaboration with Thailand’s Rajanagarindra Institute of Child Development and a proactive and innovative training scheme that has thus far produced 62 trainers since
the inception of the CBR programme.

USM’s dedication and commitment to OKU empowerment has not gone unnoticed as it has received professional support from various government agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and the Labour Department.

It is the proven expertise and established track record of this group that stand the USM CBR team in good stead as it seeks to expand its reach to wholeheartedly adopt the “Training Of Trainer” concept in order to provide comprehensive training for trainees with special needs that would engender in them the confidence to provide the best form of care and attention to their loved ones.

A hybrid of active intervention measures, innovative approaches, comprehensive and participative involvement, the USM CBR programme aspires to be the epitome of sharing through the diffusion of love, the kindling of hope and the upliftment of the human spirit.

Indeed CBR USM is geared towards nurturing sustainable and viable communities of hope within which an integrated and synergistic web of trainers, trainees, care providers, experts, policy planners dispense succour to the disabled: a web in which knowledge transfer, emotional sustenance, and personal independence are gently diffused into each and every participant in an environment of love, kindness, sensitivity and hope.


The establishment of USM CBR is indeed another milestone on the road to healing and human empowerment. It may be one small step for the personnel involved but is indeed a giant leap in confidence and quality of life both for the disabled and their caregivers.

It is yet another blossoming of the USM spirit: one that foregrounds humanity in its every endeavour even as it propagates knowledge, effects social transformation, and touches lives all in the name of sharing and giving for the sake of happiness.

The writer is director of Community Network, Division of Industry & Community Network, Universiti Sains Malaysia

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