"It’s only when disability is visible in communities that we can start to change attitudes and tackle discrimination." Josie Ellis, Programme  Development Officer

In the second of our Wheelchair Diaries blog series, Josie, Motivation's Programme Development Officer, digs deeper into the world of Parent Carer Training, meeting the mothers who are overcoming discrimination in their local communities...

16th February 2017

A Tanzanian Journey

by Josie Ellis, Programme Development Officer

"Last year, I got the chance to jet off to Tanzania. It was my first time to visit the country, and I hope it won’t be my last. I fell in love with it – the relaxed pace of life, the language, culture, food and scenery, but above all the warm and friendly people. Everywhere you go you hear people say ‘karibu sana’ which means ‘you are very welcome’ (a phrase after much practice I think I nearly perfected over my 8-day trip!)

I guess I should start with a little about who I am… I’ve been with Motivation for the last 3 and a half years. Sitting within the Programme Development team, I help to coordinate our work in Tanzania. Over the years, I have built close relationships with our team in Tanzania via crackly, intermittent video calls on Skype so I couldn’t wait to spend time with them and work together in person. I had so many questions about Tanzania and Motivation’s work.

As our office and the majority of partners are based in the North East, for the most part I was based in and around Moshi. A stand out day for me was visiting Gabriela Rehabilitation Centre, who has been working with Motivation to trial a training course for the parents of disabled children.  Parent Carer Training (PCT) gives families the chance to help give their children the best start in life. As well as getting information about their child’s basic rights, families are shown practical skills, such as how to safely feed and position their children, promoting their healthy development and providing opportunities for bonding time between parent and child.    I was lucky enough to attend a Parent Support Group not so far from the centre and sit in on some of the training. It’s the first time that the PCT has ever been delivered in Tanzania so I was really intrigued to find out how everyone had been getting on.

However, when we arrived at the centre no families appeared to have turned up to the session as planned. The training facilitator called God Rose, herself a mother of a disabled child, was visibly concerned. God Rose took us aside to explain the difficulties she was facing with attendance as the group felt incredibly vulnerable and frightened to be seen out in the community with their disabled children. She went on to tell the harrowing story of one mother who had opened her front door armed with a knife, petrified that visitors would want to harm her disabled child.  For me, this really hit home - I just couldn’t begin to imagine what it must be like to live each day in fear that my neighbours wanted to harm or even kill my child. It was a stark indication of just how scared and ostracised disabled people and their families can be made to feel in their communities. It was amazing to hear however that after much persuasion, the mother had found the strength to begin attending the training sessions.  Once unable to step foot outside her own home, this incredible Mum has since become one of the most active members of the Parent Support Group, often helping God Rose to rally other parents to attend the training. The Gabriela staff explained that it was seeing changes like this that really helped to keep them going. 

Over the course of our conversation, I noticed that slowly but surely, motorbikes were starting to arrive with mothers carrying their children in slings on their backs.  Having heard about all the challenges and barriers in the communities for families with disabled children, this was a really moving moment that will stay with me forever. Upon reflection, I came to realise that these sessions were not only there to support parents in caring and standing up for their disabled children, but they also represented a safe and secure place where families felt united and could support one another. I came away full of admiration for the parents and facilitators who work tirelessly to bring disabled children and their parents out of their homes, and into the communities. It’s only when disability is visible in communities that we can start to change attitudes and tackle discrimination."

Get the full picture...

You can find out more about Motivation's work, be heading to our Tanzania project page.