Building of the Inclusion Centre started in 2014 and construction is now in the final stages - we expect to be open late in 2015. The photo below shows the intricate and interesting construction of the buildings, with wide, rounded roofs to provide shelter from both sun and rain. The walkways and outdoor areas will be paved and accessible for children, staff and visitors.The size and unusual construction is already causing much comment in the village and more and more people are becoming aware of the project simply because this building is so striking. It gives a very clear message to the community, “This is how highly we regard disabled young people; these are the facilities and care which they deserve.”
In the last year, we have successfully established the much-needed Medical Support Programme and our Finding 500 Programme, with co-ordinators in post actively working in the community; these programmes are foundation stones for future project developments.
The three permanent project staff have already set up their office in the new Inclusion Centre
The Play Scheme will move to the new Centre when ready and will boast some exciting features - a fully accessible play-ground, with locally crafted adventure play fixtures.
Such features are equally important not just for play but also for sensory and mobility stimulation, physiotherapy and healthy exercise; remembering that for many of our children this is their first and only experience of play, it offers vital contact and support to both children and families.
Home visits are also taking place with a team of volunteers going round to individual children within their compounds. The two foundation programmes of the Inclusion Project are the Medical Support programme and Finding 500; both are inter-dependent and crucial to the lives of the children and families and to the successful outcomes of our work. With full-time dedicated staff each programme has continued to grow.
We recently employed Mr Saidy as our Medical Support Co-ordinator, to ensure children & families get the best possible care and support- he is already making progress in connecting with families and we are now supporting over 40 children. Our partnership with the AfricMed clinic means we can access specialist medical and surgical care at ‘NGO rates’ and can therefore offer medical care to the children FREE at the point of delivery. With much improved facilities at the new Centre, including a purpose-built Physiotherapy workshop, we will shortly be able to offer a wider range of medical & healthcare support.
The photos below are of Buba*, 5 years old, having treatment at the AfricMed Clinic. His right foot was amputated after traditional ‘treatment’ led to gangrene and long-term infection. What a fabulous smile he has in spite of his long-term ‘disability’ and the pain he must have suffered.
Thankfully, he is now mobile, enjoying the play-scheme and having on-going treatment.
Finding 500 is a programme to identify approximately 500 children ‘hidden’ in their homes due to the stigma and shame around disability. The co-ordinator for this programme has started training workshops in local schools, meeting with staff to promote awareness around the need for Inclusive Education; these meetings focus on key topics such as the use of appropriate language, challenging negative beliefs (in families and community), anti-bullying, anti-discrimination and accessibility to grounds and classrooms. The programme cannot succeed without the full participation of the community, and the most difficult part is changing peoples’ perceptions.
Finding 500 has successfully added 30 disabled children to the DA register (breaking down ancient prejudice takes time!) These children were previously unknown outside their own homes and are now able to access the services available through our programmes. Unfortunately most of these children live too far away to join the Play-scheme, but we plan to buy a vehicle in the near future so that we will be able to offer transport to the children and their families.
Parents support meetings are held regularly to focus on issues they may face and give the necessary information and support – both practical and emotional. Emphasis is put on showing that parents have a pivotal role in helping with both the medical care and social awareness; they must also assume responsibilities by getting involved in the whole process of changing attitudes to disability, including their own.
We believe that continuous awareness-raising strategies will create big changes. We now have a series of weekly radio programmes, with presentations from disability professionals and phone-in discussions on key topics as mentioned above in the School Awareness training.
Planning ahead - With the Inclusion Project in The Gambia now well established, we are initiating similar projects with partner organisations in two areas of Zambia to replicate it. DA is drawing up a three-year strategic plan to develop projects in a total of five African countries, recognising the value of play-schemes as the first community intervention to highlight the needs and desperate plight of disabled children.
Disability Africa is working to help achieve a global society where the attitudes of the non-disabled are no longer a barrier to the life-chances of those with impairments. Such a huge shift in attitudes and behaviours will not happen in one generation, but we can see evidence of the huge differences made in the lives of those families already accessing our services.
Our strategic plan draws on the aims and values expressed in major international treaties: the Millennium Development Goals, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the 2013 UN Report: A New Global Partnership and currently the new Sustainable Development Goals being ratified by the UN.
These major International treaties recognise that all people have the right to an education, food, shelter, basic health care, respect and dignity. Surely all children also have a right to the joy and benefits of play? We fully believe in these rights and are committed to make them a reality.