“The most important moment of your life is the present moment, the most important person is the one you are talking to,
and the most important activity is LOVE.”
The Ferryman’s Service is a very important part of our activities. It is a certain kind of Peer Counselling carried out in the Independent Living Centers in the US and in many other countries. The medical rehabilitation of disabled persons, in which physiotherapists, psychotherapists, and social workers do their own work, can not be successful without our activity, since we are the most authentic in offering such a service having similar experiences ourselves, being in a similar situation, and therefore being able to give a personal example.
We offer counselling to young or adult persons who have become physically disabled for a life through an accident or an illness on how to confront, how to master this new situation mentally and practically as well. They need to see how we solved our own problems which were essentially similar to theirs and yet not intractable in the long run.
Peer Counselling has been started in the US. First pregnant women, then black people, students, and then also the disabled people got together to talk and to work up, to treat their common problems among themselves. The counsellor has first of all to listen carefully to the counsellee’s problems, and then he/she may propose a number ofways which could lead to practicable solutions for the counsellee to make his/her own individual choice. We call ourf activity Ferryman’s Service, and it is offered by a group within our Association, after we had been trained and instructed in a training course by a team of experts specialised in rehabilitation. All of our group members are wheelchair-users.
We know by experience that in a completely new situation after a traumatic change it is not easy to take advice, if not from a person who had a similar experience before: he or she may know what that experience is like, and how to suggest acceptable alternatives for the further life. A well-trained rehabilitation expert may have all the knowledge of the world, and even he may not be able to pass his experiences on, because of the refusing attitude of the disabled person. Our contribution makes rehabilitation program more successful and the efforts of the experts and helpers more effective.
The term “Ferryman” is very expressive, at least in Hungarian, ofwhat we try to accomplish: we want to help people to land “on the other side ofthe river” rather than be stuck on “this side” where they feel helpiess and useless.
Twelve of our members carry out this service: three of them, the “liaison officers” are the co-ordinators who are instructed by the hospital staff when and where to go to visit someone in need of om assistance. The hospitals’ physiotherapists and psychotherapists know the new patients as well as the members of om group, but the co-ordinators can decide which ferryman should go to a patient, so that the best fit may be achieved. We, the ferrymen have a meeting to discuss our results, observations and experiences to gether with the involved experts from time to time. Upon request, of comse we are ready to visit the disabled persons later as a follow-up also in their homes when they are discharged from hospital, to try to help them find their ways and manage their new life style. We are ready to talk to the parents or relatives too, to make it easier for them to accept the new and irreversible situation.
This service has been started in Budapest first, at the Rehabilitation Department of the Hungarian Railways’ Hospital and in 4 wards of the National Institute for Medical Rehabilitation.