Sunday, August 31, 2008

Faraja School for Disabled Children

Think about the difficulties that people with physical difficulties face in developed countries, now consider being disabled on Africa. Where do you get a wheel chair , crutches and other orthopedic equipment? If you can find it, could you or your family afford to buy it? Once you have it, try using it on rocky, dirt roads that are muddy for part of the year and try getting in and out of houses that have steps and lips at the doors. In areas of poverty, were everyone in the family needs to work in the fields, who is able to give assistance to a disabled person? Now add the neglect and abuse suffered by many of these children and the stigma on a family who has a disabled child and you just begin to have an idea what it means to be disabled in this part of the world.

The dream for a school to address the needs of physically disabled children was answered when Mabel Swanson, a woman from Virginia, who worked with the disabled children, bequested the money to build Faraja School. It opened in 2002, and now serves 80 students between the ages of 7 and 15. Physiotherapy,Occupational Therapy and training are available on site. Orthopedic equipment, prostheses, wheelchairs and crutches are provided as well as a referral system to doctors and other medical specialists in Moshe. Vocational training is provided in a sister institution in Usa in carpentry, tailoring and shoe manufacturing when students graduate from the primary school. Social workers also assist with long term placement for the students.

When you arrive at Faraja and you first see the children your heart stops [at least mine did]. Many children have severe deformities of their limbs or have lost them. Then you see their smiles, hear their laughter, see how they help each other [ a girl who can barely walk herself pushes another girl in a wheel chair] watch them play and you begin to understand what a place like Faraja means in their lives. Children from all over this region of Tanzania are brought here for assessment and for the lucky ones, an opportunity to get an education and medical help. Faraja becomes their new home and a place to feel "normal" and accepted as a real person.
Faraja is fully wheelchair accessible. The class rooms have adjustable desks and chairs to fit each child's needs. With 6 teachers, a large group of support people and volunteers, it is the best staffed school I have seen but it is still barely able to meet the special needs of the students.

Faraja is run by the Lutheran Church. Its funding comes from donations[60%], churches in Germany and the US [10%] Tanzanian gov't [5%], school fees [5%] and the remainder from agricultural activities on its 200 acre farm.

Adventure Aid offers volunteer opportunities for people with training in Physical Therapy, Occuptional Therapy, wheelchair repair and orthopedic, prosthetic device repair and construction. On staff is a full time PT specialist, Grace Solomon Lema and an OT specialist who comes once a week. There is an excellent facility for PT and OT but equipment is lacking; stationary bikes, weights and pulley systems were some of the items mentioned when I was just there. There are 2 cottages and a guest house for volunteers to stay in on the premises. The setting is lovely with gardens and great views of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Adventure Aid is helping to get out the message about the wonderful work that this unique institution is doing and to help raise funds to support its programs. Cleven Mmari is in the process of designing a web site for Faraja. They are also looking for someone to write and design an email newsletter [Lisa, could this be a small project for you when you are here in Decmber?]

It is unfortunate that I am unable to post the pictures of Faraja with this blog. Check back in about 2 -3 weeks and you will be able to see them. They are moving and inspiring!!

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