11.06.2020 -Seeing a man who had not been able to use his arms for two years regain full independence and training sixteen people from all over PNG, knowing that they will return to their centres and provide support to people with disabilities, were two highlights of Norah Riddick’s work in Papua New Guinea (PNG).  

And one particularly special highlight was seeing a little girl called Elizabeth walking. “She was so close when I had to leave Bougainville and she finally achieved independent walking six weeks after I left. I visited her when I returned and it was great to see her progress,” said Norah.   

Physiotherapist Norah has been on three assignments with Callan Services in PNG. Callan Services supports people of all ages who have disabilities, although it is primarily an inclusive education service working with school aged children. 

Norah’s assignments have focussed on building the skills of Callan Services staff in managing physical disability. 

“If I can assist people to develop training which they can use for the next few years then all staff from Callan should gain better understanding and some practical skills which means people with disabilities will be better off. 

The original plan was that I would teach staff how to do physiotherapy, however I soon realised that it would also be useful to work with staff on how to better understand disability and improve their practical management skills.” 

Norah’s latest assignment was an e-assignment working with two physiotherapists employed to develop and deliver training to Callan staff at any of the centres in PNG.  

The training was specifically in Community Based Rehabilitation which involves taking a wide view of all issues rather than focusing on a medical model of intervention. I visited twice a year to consolidate the learning. 

My other two assignments were at two different centres, working with staff located at that centre only. That was a huge learning curve for me.” 

Norah’s favourite aspect of her assignments was going on outreach visits to remote areas of PNG. The people are wonderful to work with and very open, receptive and pleased to see us. It is also great way to build relationships with Callan staff. Travelling has also allowed me to see the reality of life in PNG and some of the difficulties people (both with and without disabilities) have to live with.” 

Awareness in classroom

About Callan Services:

Callan Services for people with disabilities was established by the Christian Brothers in Papua New Guinea in 1991, when Br Graeme Leach pioneered the service in Wewak on the north-west coast of Papua New Guinea for the education of children with disabilities. This initial centre was established in collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Wewak. Due to the success of the first Callan Services Centre, the model was replicated in other regions of Papua New Guinea. There are now 19 Callan Special Education Resource Centres (SERCs) across Papua New Guinea. 

Callan Services works in schools with teachers and students and in homes with all age groups. Staff provide eye and ear community and school screening and early intervention preschool and Sign Language classes at the centresStaff also run awareness sessions to schools and communities about disability and children’s rights and child protection. 

You can find out more about Callan Services click here


The picture was taken in Kimbe, Papua New Guinea. Photo credit: Alice Clowes