Our focus as Collective Calling is to identify children with disabilities residing in refugee camps or those that are in fluid situations i.e “on the move”. A small team of volunteers are deployed to these targeted areas that we have access to through local councils, governments, partners, collaborators and like-minded NGOs. The aim is to identify children & adults with disabilities, establish what services are available to them and to plug any gaps where services are missing, meeting the immediate needs in form of aid and program implementation.
We are in the process of empowering children with disabilities in Nyarugusu refugee camp, we were given access to Nyarugusu refugee camp, Tanzania, in June 2017, and the team learned that disabilities are not so readily accepted there as in Europe. There are stigmas attached to them which lead to exclusion from the community and sometimes even their families. Schools are also ill-equipped to be able to provide the same education to those with hearing difficulties as to those without.
Since our mission, we are now working towards the empowerment and integration of identified PWDs (persons with disabilities) in collaboration with our local partner DRST (Disability Relief Services Tanzania) using the structure of a 3-phase empowerment program. This program seeks to identify 3,500 PWDs initially (phase 1). The structure of the program involves the distribution of material aid (phase 2) and also awareness / education seminars (phase 3).
Nyarugusu refugee camp is the 3rd largest on the globe and was established in 1996. 127,000 people currently reside in this camp, their country of birth originally being from the Dominican Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi. The camp is split into 2 sections, one half for the Congolese and the other half for the Burundians. The camp spans a vast 12 square kilometers and is situated 50km south of Burundi in the district of Kigoma, Tanzania. There are 12 zones in the camp with 142 villages in total. Micro economies have formed within the camp, local trade is performed from the sale of dried fish to sugar cane traded in the common market.
One of the challenges when being faced with a humanitarian disaster as vast and lacking as the one at Nyarugusu refugee camp is how to serve responsibly, ethically and in line with our core values. The environment and sheer scale of the camp impede the progression towards a better standard of living for those who fall under the high vulnerability sector, resulting in NGOs unable to reach the capacity to address the immediate concerns of the camp beneficiaries in terms of food, hygiene & support for PWDs (persons with disabilities). Shortly after arriving we realised that the situation and responsibility we were faced with was on a level very different to the one we have been serving in Europe.
26 schools facilitate the education for all of the children in camp; 12 primary schools / 4 secondary schools accommodate the Congolese side and 8 primary schools / 2 secondary schools for the Burundians. More than 33,000 students under 16yrs are being provided with education through these 26 schools. The schools are being coordinated by IRC but operated by refugees, school equipment and supplies are way below the most basic of levels, however, the work that is conducted by the appointed teachers is carried out with love, dignity and professionalism.
Our empowerment / integration program is carried out through the following 3 phases:
PHASE 1. Identification
So far, 1,400 children have been identified with hearing disabilities and our target is to reach 3,000 over the next few weeks. Once we have identified our first 3,000 targeted beneficiaries, we will move forward to phase 2, and this is where we need your help!
PHASE 2. Provision of aid
Phase 2 will see our specialised team conduct hearing tests on the ground using equipment such as the tympanometer. These tests are vital for providing the correct information to determine what type of hearing aid is best suited for the child. The ear mould will then be made and the child will be taught how to use the hearing aid effectively and safely. Batteries will be supplied through our local partner DRST when needed by the beneficiaries. Support materials will be given to the local schools to ensure the children will be included in everyday activities and lessons at school.
PHASE 3. Awareness / Education
This will see the children being integrated back in to society, and speech therapy given to those who need it. We have an outreach programme where seminars and local community meetings are held to overcome the stigmas attached to those with disabilities, and we aim to provide role models for future generations.
We were shocked to see how little the children have here and the conditions they are living in are horrendous. We hope you can find it in your heart to help provide a child with the gift of hearing and to help provide vital tools for their precious education.