Children
 Kenya
Project #8203

Help Kenyan children with disabilities into school

by HANDS AROUND THE WORLD
Vetted
Special children with special needs
Special children with special needs

It was a real pleasure to visit the DCC in Maua and Athi School in October. I travelled with Heidi Sydor my sister. The journey was trouble-free and we even saw a number of elephants along the way!

Oliver Kirimi the manager of the DCC met us at the bus station in Maua and spent the week with us introducing us to various people and projects and talking about the work.

I was constantly mindful of my wish with HANDS AROUND THE WORLD to apply the principle of 'going deeper rather than broader' in order to make a significant lasting difference in the lives of the children.

I was concerned to discuss the high incidence of children born with disabilities - especially cerebral palsy - and the reasons for this; with Heidi we have discussed seeking a research project possibility.

We also discussed

  • the possibility of helping set up a sheltered workshop for school leavers with disabilities, to maximise their potential

  • the options around finding foster care for some children outside term time

  • a possible exchange visit in 2017

  • further equipment needed

I was struck again by the dire circumstances in which many people live, the remoteness of their homes and their very limited access to help, transport, special education etc.

The DCC building is looking much better since the recent work done through our supporters to help develop it. The physio treatment room is enlarged and better equipped, has child friendly murals and is a much brighter place. The workshop is improved but some of the equipment has to be used outdoors which is not ideal. Another workshop in the community might be a future option. Two pieces of equipment, a router and a suction machine (for making prostheses) have been requested.

We then went to Athi School and met Esther the head who had come in specially in spite of her father having died just 2 days earlier. The school looks good, there is running mains water although the storage tank tap leaks. The therapy room looks well finished but is very sparsely furnished with just 3 mattresses and no equipment. We talked at length about DCC physio input (once a month) for training and encouraging mothers and teachers to massage and stretch limbs etc.. The will is there and we hope that the people on the ground will carry out regular (daily) therapy.

Ann the 11 year old rescued by our recent physio volunteer Caroline has settled in well and is doing fine, although there are concerns over her care during holidays. (Esther takes some of the children home with her when she is worried about them)

The jewellery-making occupational therapy is doing well and we bought some items to bring back and sell. One small boy also showed me a functioning wooden torch he had made!

We were able to access a grant to construct new classrooms and this is under way, although the builder has been in hospital with a serious bout of malaria and there are some consequent delays. Now back at work; the first classroom is up to lintel height, one other has foundations and slab in, but the other is not started yet.

Esther is keen to be in in January which is a bit optimistic!

The next day we visited several special needs children at home – some disturbing cases. One with cerebral palsy had a very young mum who seemed to have no idea of the diagnosis or implications, was very needy herself and had never brought the child for assessment. Why would she go when she was so naïve and bewildered? How would she get there?

We met a 7 year old boy described as being unable to speak who could hear, but didn't respond appropriately; he had multiple untreated skin worm infections. He urgently needs pediatric assessment, not least to explore possible psychological overlay - an abuse victim?

Another boy, a little older, was also not speaking although he was obviously bright and able to understand. He could say 'mum' appropriately when prompted. He avoided eye contact and hid from nearby children coming to check out all the excitement! Another abuse victim?

On the way back to the DCC the 4x4 broke down. After battling through all the arduous terrain, several wheel nuts had worked loose and 2 bolts had sheared - the front driver's wheel was barely attached! We hobbled back with only about 2 out of 6 wheel nuts per wheel... Arriving in Maua at dusk, the market was very lively as new street lamps had just been erected throughout.

I was keen to buy some merchandise to bring home to sell on our market stall and found some wonderful things sold by a couple of Somali ladies.

On our last day, a bank holiday, the staff came in for a very interesting feedback meeting. Oliver Kirimi is very keen to be the first exchange visitor and I hope we can get him a visa to come for a few weeks next June-July.

We returned in the shuttle (express minibus) to Nairobi and had a surprisingly uneventful puncture. Several other minibus drivers stopped to offer assistance, jack and spare wheel when it became apparent that our spare was not only bald but flat. Everyday life in Africa...

A very interesting, busy and challenging week! Thank you very much for your support and encouragement. Please don't stop now!

DCC Physio treatment room
DCC Physio treatment room
Athi treatment room is very sparsely furnished
Athi treatment room is very sparsely furnished
The boy with his wonderful wooden torch!
The boy with his wonderful wooden torch!
Athi new classrooms rising
Athi new classrooms rising

We are looking forward to our delayed visit to the DCC and Athi school - David Steiner and I should be with our HATW partners in about two weeks to see how the work of the Disability Centre has progressed over the last months. We hope to see great strides in the therapy work and the activity of the improved workshop, supplying disability aids to the families in the Maua area. 

We also plan to visit the school at Athi to see the new classrooms being built, and will be working to identify areas for future development in partnership, as well as potential opportunities for volunteer placements.

Both DCC and the school at Athi have benefited from the experience and commitment of short term professional volunteers - physiotherapists, occupational therapists and teachers for children with a wide range of learning of physical disabilities could offer so much in a 2 or 3 month placement, supported by the HATW charity.

Have you ever considered sharing your skills and expertise in this way? We'd love to hear from you!

Contact info@hatw.org.uk to find out how you could help.

Athi School Children and Staff
Athi School Children and Staff

My trip to see family in Nairobi recently allowed me to visit the DCC and Athi school in order to see how the HATW projects are progressing. The last time I visited Maua was in January 2015 when the DCC director Oliver K was relatively new in his post. It was very good to see him again, now married and living locally. Oliver seems to be well established in his job but some other members of staff at the DCC have changed.

I had a good talk with Oliver about the DCC generally, including about who else supports them apart from HATW. The main donors are the Methodist Church and German NGO Kindernothilfe, with others including a Dutch NGO who focus on helping children in different projects across Kenya. I also talked to Francis G the government educational welfare officer who visits twice a week. He says that in the North Meru area awareness among parents and families of the importance for disabled children attending schools and therapy sessions has increased significantly over the last 5 years. Overall the DCC has quite a positive feeling about it.

HATW has provided skill-sharing short-term volunteer occupational and physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists and others, as well as funds for alterations to the therapy room, for extending the orthopaedic workshop and purchasing some new machinery including a plastic moulding kiln. The therapy room alterations are completed with a new doorway into the back of the workshop and fully decorated with fresh murals on the wall. It had looked a very cluttered space when we visited in 2015 but is now much improved. The new workshop machinery is all in use and a new 3 phase electricity supply has recently been installed. The storage area is much tidier. The one thing that has not progressed so far however is the workshop extension.

I asked Oliver what other things were needed at the DCC for the future and he mentioned a back-up generator as they have so many power cuts. It would need to be large enough to power the workshop machinery. He also suggested 2-3 laptops for the staff, as they only have one means of internet access. Oliver felt it would be very helpful for the web site and crowd funding applications. There is talk of creating a sub-office with therapy room at Miathene (?) half way from Maua to Meru, in order to reduce travelling time for the therapists to that area. This would involve purchasing land and putting up new buildings, which could include a larger workshop replacing the existing one in Maua.

The DCC has recently been donated 50 boxes of wheelchairs by Bristol-based UK charity Motivation for distribution among their clients. These are in a range of sizes and include conventional push type and manually operated cycle chairs. The cycle type are efficient and very much lighter than a timber model the DCC showed us last year.

I spent one day out with Oliver and the orthopaedic technician on visits. First stop was a home visit to deliver artificial limbs and a walking frame for a 2 year old with both legs amputated above the knee.

Then on to Irindiro Primary School located in a hilly area surrounded by tea plantations. We were welcomed and shown round by the friendly and caring headmaster. The school has a special unit for disabled children, staffed by 2 teachers. They have around 45 children officially on the register, but on our visit only 23 were in school. The unit occupies a single building divided into dormitories for girls and boys and with one quarter partitioned off for a classroom. There are only about 5 beds for the boys and 4 for the girls so these have to be shared by the children and the foam mattresses are extremely thin. Very basic facilities and an obvious need for more resources in the unit. We brought a sack of maize and another of beans with us for the children’s meals - these were very gratefully received as the unit was just running out of food and would have been forced to send everybody home in a couple of days time.

We then went on to Athi Special School where the great news is that a permanent water supply has finally been connected to the storage tank and two outside stand pipes. The therapy room has been completed and painted and is being used - the OT and physio were due to make their regular visit the following day. The recent builder seems to have done a good job. Work was also in progress during our visit on the base for the new classrooms.

Esther the headmistress has recently purchased a calf so that they can have a source of milk, and intends to replace the pig she had bought and which sadly died. She is looking for more funds for this and for getting chickens. Generally, everything seems to be going well at the school.

Thank you for your help and support for these lovely children, carers and families!

Oliver in the newly refurbished DCC Therapy Room
Oliver in the newly refurbished DCC Therapy Room
Athi School new Classrooms
Athi School new Classrooms' Foundations
Athi School Therapy Room completed
Athi School Therapy Room completed
DCC Operations HQ
DCC Operations HQ

 

As I write this report, I am making plans for my forthcoming trip to visit our DCC partners and the disability school at Athi. I am delighted that I will be travelling with the HATW Executive Officer, David Steiner, who will be staying in Maua for a week before he travels on to visit other HATW projects in Zambia.

It is several years since I last visited the DCC and Athi school, so I am looking forward to seeing the recent developments. I am hoping to see the new therapy room at Athi school in use, with the children having access to regular therapy on site. Also, the improvements to the DCC workshop, including the upgraded power supply, should mean I see significant changes there. Our visit will enable us to evaluate progress and identify new development areas going forward.

During our visit, we hope to meet with the Disability Centre manager, Oliver, and the DCC staff team, as well as with Esther and the teaching team at the school. We hope to consolidate the plans for building the classroom block at the school (the money is now available).

The water supply to the school is still a problem – though piped water is available locally, the school still manages with only two standpipes for the children’s use; washroom facilities that have been in place for some years are still not connected to a regular water supply. We hope to be able to prompt local discussions and solutions to address this ongoing problem.

The 2015 annual report for the DCC has been published and identifies the good work which is continuing through the work of the staff team. This includes direct work with over a thousand children from the surrounding community. There is also wider support through 3280 mothers involved in 164 self-help groups (promoted by DCC), positively impacting a huge number of children in the local community.

The work of the DCC to support children with disabilities continues through:

  • Direct referrals
  • Playgroups Centre-based assessment, therapy and the provision of mobility aids
  • Home based follow up Community outreach clinics and school linked support

Identified challenges going forward at the DCC include:

  • insufficient staffing, for which ongoing funding is still being sought;

  • the continuing need to effectively educate and inform families and the local community, to ensure that children with disabilities are identified early and receive appropriate help.

What can you offer by way of help?

We place skilled volunteers with partner projects for 3 weeks to 3 months to share their expertise and encourage the local staff.

We also look for funding partners, who are willing to sponsor initiatives like classroom building or financing the water supply to the school.

Contact info@hatw.org.uk for more information or to arrange a volunteering visit; or donate directly to making a difference in the lives of children living with health challenges who attend Athi Special school.

 

Florence
Florence

We are delighted that Hands Around the World has been able to identify sponsorship for building the much-needed classrooms at Athi School in 2016!

The project will enable the building of a block of four classrooms, together with toilet and water facilities; the aim is to start the work in mid-February and to complete the work within a year, providing the disabled children with water-tight classrooms and enough space to teach the children in smaller groups. The work on the therapy room, together with planned classroom building, means that the children at Athi Special School will have much-needed improved facilities.

An update from Oliver K, manager of the Disability Centre (DCC): “We completed painting the therapy room at Athi before we closed for the Christmas break and the building is looking good. The DCC workshop and power connection has also been completed and we are just about to start use of the equipment that relied on higher load of electricity and hopefully we can now get started in producing more items to better the lives of the children we serve.”

A planned project visit to our Athi/DCC partners will enable us to evaluate progress of previous initiatives in person, see the building work and assess other needs.

How would you like to help these children living with disabilities? Can you spare time to visit and share your skills – physiotherapy or specialist teaching? Or do you have technology skills in making individual mobility aids that you could share in the workshop at DCC?

Contact info@hatw.org.uk for more information or to arrange a volunteering visit; or donate directly to making a difference in the lives of children living with health challenges who attend Athi Special school.

Athi Special School therapy room, just completed
Athi Special School therapy room, just completed
DCC workshop 3-Phase electricity installation
DCC workshop 3-Phase electricity installation
 

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Organization Information

HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.hatw.org.uk
Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom

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