Usually, the main carers for children with disabilities are the family members, who often have only little support. That puts these families under enormous strain. SEP fills this gap, funded by Misereor, with the Wezesha Programme (empowerment in Kiswahili). SEP developed innovative approaches that promote health and well-being of children with disabilities in low resource settings. Furthermore the Wezesha Programme is working on enhancing the communities’ understanding of the rights of children with disabilities and is promoting inclusion at school and in the community.
The programme aims at fostering parents, community workers, and teachers in their role as caregivers and multipliers, in order to transfer skills and information. It targets specifically communities in remote areas where access to health services and therapeutic support is inadequate. During a one week training, participants learn practical skills, how to help their own children with disabilities as well as become peer educators to share their knowledge to help other parents in their community.
After the training the peer educators identify other families and form support groups. Currently SEP works with 16 support groups. They serve to reduce the sense of social isolation and exclusion of parents. It offers a platform to provide psychosocial support to parents, and a safe place to share experiences. SEP in partnership facilitates registration of children with disabilities and support groups which in turn facilitates access to government funds. Overall, there is an extremely positive response to the established support groups by the participating parents.
The Wezesha Programme has shown great impact on children with disabilities, their caregivers, teachers and communities.
The children with disabilities achieve milestones, like being able to walk and have a better health condition. Both result in improved quality of life. Children who have mild disabilities have joined regular schools thanks to the presence of teachers at the trainings.
The caregivers report a significant development in knowledge and confidence in taking care of their children with disabilities. They increase their understanding of the condition which leads to an improved attitude towards the children. This often results in greater patience in caregiving and acceptance.
Parents report improved interaction with their children due to acceptance and better communication skills.
Progress is also made towards awareness creation in the communities and promotion of the rights of children with disabilities. The awareness creation has reduced the association of disabilities with witchcraft. Caregivers, who are primarily mothers, were socially excluded from their families. The mothers report a slight change in attitude towards them and the child within the family.