As Accomplish celebrates its eighth birthday this month, more than 1,000 children and young people with disabilities in Africa are benefiting directly from the work we fund: epilepsy treatment clinics; occupational and physiotherapy; our primary school; vocational training; and income-generating schemes for their families, including agriculture and crafts.
Our partner organisations in Uganda reach even more children and families: visiting them, supporting them and helping them to care for their children.
In this blog, Accomplish Trustee Dr. Chris Harris reflects on how our partner organisations have spread hope. Harder to measure than attendance a medical clinic, but just as important: the families with whom we work now know their children have a promising future. The projects we fund have helped families to communicate, children to make friends, and young people to earn a living.
The first time I met the founders of SADICH, they were nervous, shy, and we met in a darkened office without electricity. That meeting could not have been in greater contrast to the way I found the organisation in March of this year. As I walked up the road towards the vocational centre I could hear cheering from down the street and could not quite believe that it was coming from the same compound I had visited nearly 10 years ago.
At our meeting this time, the lights were on and there were over 100 children with various disabilities taking part in a celebration of achievement, playing volleyball, making crafts, showing their carpentry and tailoring skills, and all absolutely delighted with the difference that SADICH has made to their lives. There is hope. Such a strong driving emotion. Hope that their future could hold a job, an income, a life outside of poverty, a family of their own.
We have recently had World Mental Health day, reminding us that people’s suffering often goes unseen. It can be easy to focus on a child’s disability, and just as easy to miss the psychological burden that often accompanies disability, particularly in a country that is so unforgiving of those with extra needs.
Giving these children and families hope has transformed lives and brought happiness and security to a group of individuals who are perfect in so many ways.
The social effects of SADICH are mirrored by our other partners: RAPCD, KCDC and RSNF. The care, compassion and physical support shown by these groups to children with disabilities, has showcased the talents of children with disabilities to the wider community, forcing people to take notice and changing deep seated fears and prejudices. This in turn has reduced discrimination.
A great example of this change can be seen in the epilepsy clinics. In March we were able to start yet another new clinic at the RAPCD school and there was a clear contrast between the new, nervous patients who felt they had to hide away their illness, and those patients who had been seen at our other clinics previously, something I had not noticed before. The self-confidence of these ‘older’ patients and the interest shown by their community leaders towards them was truly humbling. I am sure we will witness this change occur in the new patients as our, now expert, team begin educating their families and communities about epilepsy.
There are many challenges ahead, but the relief from suffering and provision of hope is a real and palpable entity across all our projects. So hard to explain, yet so vital for the changing of bodies and minds. I am at once proud and humbled to be part of such a story.
(This article was first published in our Autumn/Winter 2016 newsletter.)