Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Arriving in the beautiful community of Sandema


I would like to introduce you to our wonderful new LIFE team.  
Our project aims to promote inclusion of those with disabilities into education and society in general. From left to right we have: Hakeem (Mr Chatterbox), Barnabas (Mr Swag), Safia (Miss Fashionista), Madison (Miss Responsible), Sandra (Miss Laughter), Soji (Mr Meditation), Adija (Miss Up and Coming Popstar), Natalie (Miss Positive) and Kate (Miss Sass).
Hakeem and Kate are our fabulous team leaders and the rest of us will be picking up the reins from the last cohort!

The Warmest of Welcomes.

We have all been astonished at the warmth spread since our arrival. Firstly, from setting our first foot on the ground of Sandema. Our host mums were told to ‘come and meet your children’ and we were given the biggest of hugs. It was the perfect start to our new adventure.
We have since started meeting the community of Sandema. We have Hippo - the guy to know - he has a cafĂ©, bar and hosts a regular radio show. He has welcomed us with open arms and has already let us join him on radio (which I will be discussing later). There is David, whose incredible story of overcoming his disability whilst facing adversity has inspired us all. We have Paul, who is a key member of the DPO (Disable Person Organisation) and has already given us much laughter in our meeting. The list could go on and one. 

Furthermore, we have excitingly met the Chief to ask for the ‘key’ to Sandema. In other words, to ask for his blessing to continue working with his community. He welcomed us happily and stated: ‘the work of the previous team was very good, but do not follow in their footsteps, make your own path and do even better.’ I saw these as excellent words of encouragement. We are all here to achieve the same overall goal. Yet, he highlighted that with each new cycle of volunteers brings with them new qualities. Thus, with so many unique brains adding to the same project, we can achieve more and more. The completion of the LIFE project’s goals become more visible with each new team, with the addition of each new individual.

Already Busy, Busy Bees.

Seeing as we have only just completed week one in Sandema, we have already been up to quite a lot! We have participated in a radio show, attended a workshop to educate on disability and have been helping individuals with their activities within the community.

Firstly, we were invited to discuss ‘woman’s empowerment’ on Hippo’s radio show. This consisted of Adija, Soji, Hakeem and I discussing the importance of inclusion with regards to gender. We had a great time, and we had some very positive feedback. Madison’s host father even said: ‘I listened to the radio, it was great, go woman’s empowerment!’ However, this experience also brings us to one of our first challenges. It was clear due to some callers’ messages that this subject was not altogether well received. For instance, we had one caller saying, ‘I’ve had enough of women’s empowerment’ and another saying, ‘woman make their own problems.’ Whilst this was frustrating, it also emphasised the importance of our work. We need to keep on repeating our messages until everyone is willing to listen.

Secondly, we attended a workshop that educated on disability. This was an equally rewarding experience as it showed us that people were wanting to learn more on the subject. Additionally, it informed us further about what strategies need to be put in place to combat discrimination against those with disabilities, specific to the region of Sandema.
Furthermore, we have been working alongside Paul to help advertise his upcoming training on making soap. He hopes to create more opportunities for young women and those with disabilities within his community. He has certainly inspired us with his enthusiasm and innovative ideas to help those most vulnerable in Sandema. After all, this is what our project is all about!

Plans for the future.

We have decided to host several school sensitizations and youth workshops to educate on the broad subject of disability. These will aim to further educate young people on different types of disabilities and the importance of inclusion.  We want to include a range of games and activities to engage the children and teach them how those with disabilities are just as important as everyone else. They will not only be educational, but also fun.

Remember to keep up with our latest blogs so that you can join us on our journey!

Written By Natalie Innes

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