An exciting part of our time spent with CST focused on supporting one of the project’s teacher training events, delivered by CST staff and run by two expert trainers – Robert from Patandi Teachers’ College of Special Needs Education in Tanzania, and Gloria, a Child-to-Child specialist from Kyambogo University in Uganda who has also been working with our partner Uganda Society of Disabled Children (USDC). The training introduced an inclusive methodology developed by AbleChildAfrica and USDC to the 45 teachers in attendance, empowering children themselves to break down the barriers that prevent disabled children from going to school and learning in the classroom. It was great to work with and meet these teachers – a true lifeline for the project – who were all so committed to making their classrooms inclusive for children of all abilities. The icebreakers (and many singalongs!) certainly kept everyone full of energy over the course of the five days.
A personal highlight for us was getting to spend some quality time with the CST team. After a long and busy week we had an away day to look forward to. We were lucky enough to have a clear day to hike up Lake Ngozi, the second largest crater Lake in Africa. It was nothing short of spectacular, and very fittingly, the lake itself is naturally shaped like the continent of Africa!
After hopping on and off a few flights, we were soon diving straight into work with our partner UWEZO and their ‘Raising Aspirations’ project in Rwanda! The project works in a rural district in the Northern Province – with 30 youth mentors making weekly home & school visits to provide practical and emotional support to 30 out of school or low attendance disabled children, helping to raise their aspirations as well as the expectations of their parents and teachers. Through this project, we aim to increase the number of disabled children enrolled in, attending and benefitting from primary school.
Nothing could illustrate the success of the innovative youth mentor approach more than when we visited one of the children supported by the project at their family home. It was lovely to spend time with both Leonard and his mentor Eric, seeing the close bond they have formed over the last year. Thanks to the project, Leonard, who was born with both a physical and intellectual disability, has gone from being consistently out of school to now attending school every day. He shared with us how he liked to go to school so he could learn to pass his exams, and how much he liked to dance at the project’s community events and do social activities like going to prayer with his mentor. Leonard’s grandmother summed up the support provided by Eric in one word – ‘extraordinary’! We are excited to roll out this project in the new year, building up a bigger network of mentors who can reach and support even more children across Rwanda.
Meeting people such as mentor Eric at UWEZO, and the numerous teachers supported at CST showed us the incredible impact the work of our partners can have on disabled children and young people – without their passion and commitment, and that of our partner staff, our project’s simply wouldn’t be possible – but this is exactly why the projects we run in partnership will continue to go from strength to strength.