Mar 10, 2017

Increasing the Kyaninga Dairy goat herd to support children with disabilities in western Uganda

We bought 41 goats from 39 families
We bought 41 goats from 39 families

Early on a hot and dusty December morning, the Kyaninga Dairy team set out to Kasinga District, in the Rwenzori mountains, close to the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a long drive for a relatively short distance, as most of the route was on unsealed, rocky, marram roads through local villages and small trading centres. We finally stopped at one village, where the Kasinga Women Dairy Goat Project had gathered to sell their goats. Some of these women had walked for over an hour with their goats, in the heat and dust, but it would be worth it, for the money they would be able to take home to their families. The average monthly wage for a family living in rural western Uganda is less than $100 a month, but each of these goats would be worth between $70 and $90, depending on their age.

In total, 39 women and their families brought 41 goats for sale. Families like Mary, who had 4 goats at home that sh had bred from her original one goat that she was given initially. She not only gave the milk to her children to supplement their diet, which mainly consisted of Posho (maize meal) and beans, but she made a small income by selling the excess milk to the local health centre’s maternity unit, where babies born with low birthweight, or those that struggled to breastfeed were able to get good nutritious milk, and reduce the risks of malnutrition.

There was much jubilation and celebration amongst the families as we loaded each goat into the truck, to transport them to their new home at Kyaninga Dairy. There, we have built a small goats shed, and now that the goats are settling into their new home and milk yields are increasing we are able to start selling delicious, fresh goats cheese, with all profits going to support children with disabilities through the Kyaninga Child Development Centre. We currently have 6 mature dairy goats producing good milk yields, 3 billy goats, 15 young goats, and 17 pregnant or maturing goats so our milk yields and cheese production should be increasing even more over the next few months.

Families with a disabled child, living in extreme poverty, will be able to benefit from this project by receiving a dairy goat, as well as training in care and animal husbandry. They can then use the milk for their own family, or sell it on to their communities or health facilities. This will give families a steady income that will enable them to provide food, clothes, healthcare and schooling for their families.

Kyaninga Dairy also intends to employ teenagers with disabilities to care for and milk the goats, as these young people have very few employment opportunities, and will be able to contribute to their family income.

Kyaninga Dairy is continuing to raise funds to build a larger goat shed and milking parlour, that will accommodate the maturing goats and purchase an additional 10 mature milking goats to boost current yields, so that we meet the current demands for the delicious fresh goats cheese, and reach our target of supporting operations at Kyaninga Child Development Centre, who are providing physical, occupational and speech therapy to more than 500 children with disabilities, living in extreme poverty in western Uganda

Driving in the Rwenzori Mountains
Driving in the Rwenzori Mountains
One of our mature, milking goats
One of our mature, milking goats
Kyaninga Dairy team with Mary and her goats
Kyaninga Dairy team with Mary and her goats

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Feb 6, 2017

Back to School with KCDC

Tabisha developing her fine motor skills
Tabisha developing her fine motor skills

February 6th 2017 is the first day of the new school year here in Uganda, and just like families across the world, parents are proudly escorting their young sons and daughters to their first class, at the start of their educational journey. Unless they have a disability. Then there is no school, no opportunity to learn, to integrate with their peers and work towards a bright future. Recent data reports that 93% of children enrol into primary school, 64% complete primary school and only 24% go onto secondary school. In contrast, only 9% of children with disabilities are able to access education within an inclusive setting or special school, and there is no data on primary completion or secondary enrolment (2015 Unicef Situation Analysis of Uganda).

The reasons given for not attending school are wide-ranging, and include a lack of money for fees, uniforms and books, limited access for those with physical disabilities (classrooms or latrines), a lack of special educational needs trained teachers and discrimination from schools and communities, with the belief that children with disabilities are incapable of learning and should be excluded.

Kyaninga Child Development Centre has a strong belief that all children have a right to education and that disability should not prevent them from going to school. Consequently, KCDC has partnered with two government and one private school that are identified to integrate students with special needs, as well as regular visits to other local schools across the district where children with disabilities are attending. We work with both students and teachers to provide an optimal learning environment, adapted to each individual need.

One such example is 8-year-old Tabisha. She is the 8th born in her family and has cerebral palsy from complications at birth. She has difficulty controlling all the muscles in her body, making walking, talking and writing a challenge, but she is extremely clever and has no intellectual disability. Her parents are strong advocates for her and enrolled her into the local nursery school, alongside her younger siblings. She has to be carried up and down the steep slope from her home, by her 11-year-old brother as the ground is too rough for her to be safe in the wheelchair. Her first-year school report, before KCDC became involved read ‘Would do better if she was normal’ and she had scored 15% in her tests – for shading and writing letters and numbers.

KCDC’s occupational therapist, Rachel, and speech therapy assistant Rehema, have been working closely with Tabisha, her family and the school teachers over the past year, to ensure that she stays in school and receives the support that she needs. This includes a workshop with the teachers to increase awareness about disability, and specifically her abilities and challenges and creating a communication picture board for use at school and home so that her needs are understood when her speech is unclear.

Working with the teachers to understand her level of functional ability in writing, and finding alternative ways to participate in the classroom has allowed Tabisha to improve her grades and be accepted by her teachers and classmates. Simple suggestions such as reducing the amount she has to write, limiting it to the most important points, means that she is able to keep up with the lesson and doesn’t tire too quickly. Using the communication board means that she can participate in class, and make her needs known quickly. Regular therapy has also improved her walking and writing ability: she is now able to walk short distances without support and can write all her letters and numbers legibly, using a weighted pencil for better control.

Tabisha is lucky that she has a family who believe in and value her future, but many children are not so fortunate – in the past year, of the 143 children referred to KCDC in 2016 of school-going age, only 42 (29%) are attending school, while 82 (58%) are not in school but could be and are capable of learning. When questioned, the families tell us that these children are excluded due to their disability, mobility limitations, family financial constraints or the schools’ unwillingness to accept a child with a disability.

In total, we have 111 children that we work with in school, but 141 not in school that should be. KCDC hopes to employ a special needs teacher to specifically work with schools across the district, to promote education, identify individual learning needs and provide support to both student and teacher and increase the number of children with disabilities not only enrolling into school but completing school and reaching their full potential.

Much improved writing
Much improved writing
Using her walking frame to get around
Using her walking frame to get around

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Nov 10, 2016

Creating an inclusive community in western Uganda.

Stuart won't let Cerebral Palsy stop him playing
Stuart won't let Cerebral Palsy stop him playing

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one – Jane Howard.

In Uganda, approximately 12% of children (2.5 million) are living with disabilities, and access to healthcare is extremely limited. The majority if disabilities are due to birth-related injuries, illness and congenital defects, resulting in severe disability. Many of these children are living in extreme poverty, with their families struggling to provide and support their medical needs. Most have not seen a medical professional regarding their disability, because families believe there is nothing that can be done anyway, and as there are very few rehabilitation therapists working in Uganda, it is estimated that only 18% of children (450,000) have access to services that could have a massive impact on improving their life. 

Widespread local beliefs that disabilities are an untreatable curse or the presence of a demon, cause disabled children and their families to be excluded from their communities, often cause increased family stress and breakup, financial burdens and a reluctance to seek help. The poor local understanding of disability is a huge barrier to the progress, learning and independence of many children.

In the past year, Kyaninga Child Development Centre has been working to reach 100 children with disabilities living in extreme poverty in the rural areas of Kabarole District, western Uganda, through our community outreach programme. We have managed to achieve this and more, with over 140 children seen regularly (at least once a month), some of whom were identified during the 2-day community awareness activity in July, when more than 250 children were assessed, others through referrals from friends and family, or local health centres.

But it isn’t just physical, occupational and speech therapy and rehabilitation that we are providing to these children and their families, we are creating inclusive communities that are no longer isolating, discriminative or misunderstood. This is done through regular home, school and community visits, community awareness activities and training workshops with healthcare and community workers in the identification, care and management of children with disabilities.

In the past year, we have generated partnerships with 5 local health centres, in addition to the 3 health centres and 3 schools that we were already working with the previous year. This has enabled us to reach many more communities and individuals, raised the awareness of disabilities and reduced the associated stigma within the medical community. We have found that many nurses, midwives and clinical officers also believe that disability is not a medical condition, but a curse, demon, or the fault of the mother for disrespecting her family during pregnancy. This has led us to create a training programme for healthcare workers in a further 12 local health centres, to be implemented in 2017.

Another important aspect of creating an inclusive community is including leisure and recreational activities, which was achieved by our recent Inclusive Sports and Family Fun day, held on November 6th 2016. This was a day of celebration and allowed more than 70 children with both physical and intellectual disabilities to come together and participate in a variety of sports activities, along with able-bodied children and adults. We were thrilled to welcome David Emong, Uganda’s first silver medal winner at the Rio Paralympic games to join us for the day, and he gave an inspiring speech to the parents in attendance about believing in and supporting your children, and even challenged the parents to a 100-metre dash – he came second!!!

We were also fortunate to be supported by Special Olympics Uganda coaches, and local sports coaches from Youth Opportunities Uganda, who were fantastic at encouraging all children to try five-a-side football (soccer), tag-rugby, netball and tennis. While the children played, it was also a wonderful opportunity for parents to meet and share experiences and challenges, and to support each other, with new friendships made, and many expressing their surprise and pleasure at seeing their children, who were once thought of as useless, a burden, incapable of doing anything, kicking a football, throwing a ball and being accepted by everyone around them.

One young boy who attended, 5-year old Edward, travelled over 80km with his mother, Nyangoma, to attend the day. He is not accepted in his community because he was born with extremely short arms, which Nyangoma says make people fear him and in turn, exclude her as well. She hopes that he will one day be accepted and able to attend school, but worries about how the other children will treat him. We have sent Edward for assessment at the National Orthopaedic Hospital but they are unable to do anything to help him, as the bones are too weak. So we are working with him to learn independence in personal skills such as washing, dressing and writing with his feet.

Edward loved being around other children, realising that he isn’t the only one with challenges and finding opportunities to join in the games, he was very happy kicking a football around, laughing when he scored a goal, and joining in the drum circle. In the same way Nyangoma found the supportive and caring community that she had needed so badly back home. She happily chatted with other parents on the challenges she faces, the feelings of exclusion and isolation and how she can best advocate for her son. She is looking forward to our next community event in December, the end of year party, where she can strengthen those friendships and community support. 

We are looking forward to growing our community next year, reaching out to another 150 children with disabilities, and helping them and their families find the support and inclusivity that they deserve.

Edward and his mother at KCDC's community fun day
Edward and his mother at KCDC's community fun day
David and Ayebale with his Olympic silver medal
David and Ayebale with his Olympic silver medal

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