Reaching the disabled in Tanzania
A project to help disabled children continues to benefit communities.
In 2000, the Tanzania Territory, partnering with the Norway Territory, instituted a five-year community-based rehabilitation project for disabled children in Mbeya and Tabora. Although the project ended in 2005, its benefits continue to influence lives.
Aimed to strengthen and create equal opportunities for children with disabilities through social inclusion and rehabilitation services, the project served a total of 715 disabled children in 72 different communities and villages. Additionally, it empowered some 600 community members to run and support the program as volunteers and, using community-owned resources, to assist additional children in the future.
“The benefits created by this program for the disabled children and their communities are still happening even today,” said Frederick Urembo, projects officer for the Tanzania Territory. “It has become a sustainable program and members of the corps and communities have made use of the skills and knowledge they acquired from the program in order to sustain it.”
Through weekly community meetings, project participants helped create community awareness about issues related to children with disabilities. Prior to the establishment of this project, many families tried to hide their disabled children inside the house because it was considered a curse for a family to have a disabled child. The awareness meetings allowed the identification of 233 previously unknown disabled children.
Community members raised funds for the project’s support and many voluntarily gave their time to visit disabled children in their homes to provide counseling and advice to the families. Program volunteers conducted daily physical exercises for disabled children as well as organizing social gatherings and sports activities to promote integration between the disabled children and the able bodied children.
The project supplied 60 children with appliances such as tricycles, wheelchairs, crutches, corner seats and orthopedic boots. Because of these aids, most of the children were able to walk and moveallowing 55 to be registered in school.
In Mbeya alone, half of the 400 children helped by the project were then able to attend school. Fifty-nine of these children performed so well in the national examinations that they were selected to attend secondary schools.
“The program has gone even further into the expansion and extension of the mission of the Army as many corps have since been planted,” Urembo said.