Our top 5 achievements for 2016 - the year we changed more lives than ever before

‘Changing children’s lives’ isn’t just a catchy slogan. It’s something we do all the time. 2016 was probably the most successful year so far for Disability Africa. The year we have changed more lives for the better than ever before.

Here are our top five achievements this year…

1.    Opening of the Gunjur Inclusion Centre

As is often the case with building projects, there have been some setbacks and obstacles to overcome but finally on the 28th August, the GIC was finally up and running! Disability Africa reached another milestone in its short history and achieved something unique and quite spectacular… the Playscheme in the Gunjur Inclusion Centre (GIC), The Gambia, started!

Now, only a few months later, we have registered around 300 disabled young people. The GIC has a physiotherapy room where children will have sessions with a community-based physiotherapist. Also, very soon we will have a fully equipped soft-play room – providing a fun, stimulating, educational environment for all the children attending.

Getting the Playscheme up and running is huge for us because the playscheme acts as a hub from which other programmes develop.

2.    Finding 500

Our Finding 500 programme is designed to find 500 disabled young people in the Gunjur region of The Gambia and bring them out of isolation. We’re half-way through this two-year project and we’ve registered 300 disabled children! So, we’re on target to finding 500 hidden, isolated disabled young people!

One of the ways that we are able to find disabled young people is thanks to our Inclusion Club. The aim is for non-disabled students in the local Lower Basic School to help find their disabled peers. Across Africa, children are free to explore their communities. They frequently visit neighbours’ compounds and are welcomed, often invited to eat with families that are not their own and even sleep over - they know their communities like the backs of their hands. We are encouraging the non-disabled students to do a survey of their local area, where we hope they will find any disabled young people who are hidden away. Eventually, we hope to be able to support the disabled young people into education where the non-disabled students, who volunteer at our playscheme, will act as their ‘buddies’.

Another Finding 500 success is the fact that we've supported 33 children into education by paying for essential items like books, pens, bags and uniforms, that their family can't afford. Sometimes, that's all it takes! That's more than 1 in 10 disabled children registered with us attending school. Across the continent, only 1 in 50 disabled children attend school. We're making great progress!

3.    Providing vital medical support

Thanks to our Medical Support Programme (MSP) in Gunjur, we’ve successfully performed life-changing surgery for five children this year! One of the children who underwent surgery broke her leg when she was two, and at the age of six, has finally had successfully surgery – free from pain!

This year, not only have we provided more surgery than ever before, but we’ve changed the lives of children and their families who couldn’t afford other medical treatment without Disability Africa’s support. Our MSP supports around 60 children with a range of impairments. Our Coordinator conducts regular home visits and follow-ups when appropriate. 

In Africa, healthcare is often inadequate for disabled young people. That’s why we work so hard to develop partnerships with local organisations in order to build and develop infrastructure and vital services.


4.    Kawama Inclusion Project

Our first year running the KIP, in Zambia, has been hugely successful! We’ve run one play day a week in a community hall. The play days are run by a team of 12 volunteers and  focus on how to develop the social skills, communication skills and coordination skills of the disabled young people. Physiotherapy is delivered at the Playscheme every week and the volunteers also carry out home visits to provide parents with information and support on a one-to-one basis.

During the year, four children have been supported into education. They are now attending school for the first time; at primary, secondary or skills centre levels. That’s around 14% of children attending the playscheme being supported into education. Compare this to 2% of disabled young people attending education across the continent and you’ll see the wonders of play! 

Some have also been provided with important medical support. Three children have been assisted to access life-changing treatment at the Beit Cure Hospital in Lusaka whilst others have been provided with mobility equipment.

This project will expand in 2017 and run a playscheme two days per week. We will also ensure that more people know about this vital project and our message of inclusion.

5.    Expansion

Talking of expansion: we’re going to be in five African countries within the next three years! 

This year we recruited two Project Development Officers, Mike and Tom, to work alongside our Director, Ric. They will help Disability Africa develop our existing projects and expand into more African countries.

Having seen how successful the template is working in The Gambia and Zambia, we want to replicate our successes elsewhere. Already, we have plans to start a project in Malanga, Kenya. This project is going to be a challenge. Maybe even our biggest challenge yet. It will be very difficult to establish a project in a poor, rural community. But we don’t believe that it is good enough to say ‘somethings are just too difficult’ – if our template is going to work, it must work anywhere. So, by 2017, we hope Kenya will be added to our list of countries where we are helping to change lives.

We believe that in order to do something big, we must first do something small and write it down so that others can replicate - then we have done something big! 2016 has been a great year for Disability Africa and for the hundreds of children and families we support. We’ve only given you our five favourite achievements, but the list could have been so much longer!

We couldn’t have done it without your support. Thank you!