Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority

Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority

06-04-2016

 

Ms. Tamsin Evans in Sierra Leone

Fatoma, mental health nurse (right) and his supervisor (left) visit Mr Kaikai at his home in Freetown. Mr. Kaikai is a beneficiary of CBM’s program ‘Enabling Access to Mental Health’ (EAMH) in Sierra Leone. Ms. Tamsin Evans (EAMH supervisor) is also seen here (second from left). © CBM

CBM is taking part in a series of events co-hosted by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation on 13 and 14 April 2016. These events aim at prioritising mental health in the global development agenda.

During the two days, ministers of finance and development agencies will hear how countries of all income levels have successfully scaled up mental health services, often using innovative approaches.

One highlight of these meetings is an Innovations Fair at which mental health experts from around the world will showcase successful mental health projects in which they have been involved. Carmen Valle, who worked in Sierra Leone with CBM will be showcasing its partner project on providing mental health services and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in Sierra Leone during the Ebola Virus Disease crisis.

 

Background of project

Momenta's Project Sierra Leone 2015

Training on yoga for self-care is provided to the Association of Service Users and Family Members of Sierra Leone during one of their meetings.

Due to the 2014-2015 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, communities were severely affected in many ways: many people died in a distressing way, many were separated from their loved ones, or had to cope with quarantine and separation, many who survived had to live with long term physical consequences. This is particularly difficult to cope with at a time of grieving or being concerned about the welfare of your family. Health care providers were overloaded and stressed, particularly as such workers were disproportionately represented among the victims. Social stigma increased towards those who connected to people with Ebola disease, worsening distress and isolation. Ultimately, whole communities experienced the fear and suffering that disease outbreaks often cause.

This project aimed to reduce psychological trauma associated with Ebola disease by providing psychological and social support to those affected by the outbreak in Sierra Leone, as well as preventative psychosocial interventions aimed at children and their families. Building on an existing programme in country, this innovation decentralized services and aimed to make MHPSS support available in all areas and all sectors of the population.

An associated programme worked to ensure that health messages were accessible to all communities, by working with different marginalised groups like persons with disabilities to develop their own messages that overcame the usual barriers they experience.

 

Quote

“I want to express my profound gratitude to EAMH and their Ebola response. This programme has deeply transformed mental health in Sierra Leone.” – Hon. Foday Sawi. Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation. Government of Sierra Leone

 

Further contributions to meetings

Momenta's Project Sierra Leone 2015

Mabinty S. Koroma, mental health nurse trained by EAMH works at Sierra Leone’s only psychiatric hospital.

In addition, CBM Mental Health Advisor, Julian Eaton will be presenting on how best to address the problems that people with sensory impairments have with mental health issues. For a number of reasons, rates of mental illness are higher in this group, and Julian will be representing CBM and the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to discuss how we can reduce this problem and ensure that appropriate services are accessible to people with hearing and visual impairments.

In addition to the main mental health events at the World Bank/WHO meeting, there are a range of other side meetings during this busy week for global mental health. It is expected that the week will culminate in some major announcements related to how the global development community can more effectively prioritise mental health. This is happening at a key time, with mental health and well-being having been recently highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals that will guide the global development agenda until 2030. While mental health was much more prominent in the SDGs than in the MDGs that preceded them, there is now need for tangible investment and implementation of the evidence based interventions that we know can transform peoples’ lives, especially in the poorest countries of the world which are currently most neglected.

Denis Is Walking Tall

By Tobias Pflanz, CBM Field Communications Manager
Denis before (left) and after (right) his operation

It was a morning like any other when Denis began his journey towards walking free from Blount’s disease. Denis, who was eight at the time, sat watching his carer – half-sister Rora – prepare their breakfast in a pot over the open fire. They were having maize and cassava, mashed with groundnut sauce.

A cock was crowing. The smells of jackfruit and burning wood filled the air.

But this was no ordinary morning.
Denis and Rora make beakfastHaving lived with Blount’s disease for most of his short life – a condition which bowed the bones of his lower legs outward, making walking extremely painful – Denis was about to receive an operation that would change everything.

Denis was full of smiles. He was ready.

Denis and a CBM worker

A life-changing operation

At a CBM partner hospital just outside Uganda’s capital, Kampala, Denis met the doctor who would operate on his legs.

The doctor explained he would perform corrective surgery on Denis’s right leg – which was more severely affected – to straighten the bones. He would then fit Denis with a fixator, a device that would temporarily sit on the outside of his leg and continue to align his bones after he left the hospital.The doctor looks at Denis's legs before the operation

On the left leg, the doctor would implant a small metal plate below the knee joint to stop the leg growing in the wrong direction. As Denis grew taller, the doctor explained, the leg would straighten itself. Denis smiles form his hospital bed after the operation

A brave boy

Everything in surgery went according to plan and the next day, an exhausted Denis learnt it was time for his first round of physiotherapy.

It was at this point Denis showed everyone just how brave he was.

Denis bravely takes his first post-operation steps Physiotherapy continues for Denis

Despite an intense surgery and a rough first night, Denis gathered the strength to do his first exercise: walking between a set of parallel bars.

Slowly, despite the pain, Denis clenched his teeth and took a step. Then another. Holding tightly to the bars, he began to walk forward.

Life couldn’t be more different!

One year on and life couldn’t be more different for nine-year-old Denis.

Following several months of checkups and physiotherapy exercises, Denis is on his way to a complete recovery.The doctor shows Denis the difference between pre- and post-operation xrays of his legs

And he loves everything his new life has to offer.

He can run. He can jump. He can bend his legs and kneel down. And after years of watching other children play, he can now join in!

Denis can also walk to school without any pain and take part in all school activities. He’s now in year one and his teachers report he’s not only doing well with his studies but is happier and more confident too.Denis runs and plays with his friends

For all children like Denis

Denis’s story shows just how much of a difference your gifts to CBM make. When children face the dual challenge of both poverty and disability, it can be difficult for them – and their families – to see a way out. When you partner with CBM, you create opportunities for children like Denis.a smiling Denis shows the difference we can make in the life of a child

I pray that every time you see his face on the calendar this March, you remember your support continues to help children all around the world, just like Denis.

 

Signature of Tobias

Tobias Pflanz – CBM Field Communication Manager

Learning the Value of Australian Aid in Cambodia

This blog is written by CBM Australia Senior Advisor of Program Development, David Brown, who accompanied a delegation of Australian politicians on a learning tour to Cambodia from 17 to 22 January 2016. The delegates visited a range of development and humanitarian agencies to see firsthand the type of projects supported by the Australian government’s aid program.

Phnom Penh is a city of two million people. It is the centre of Cambodia’s growth projects – its housing and construction boom, and the face of Chinese investment in new townships and large casinos. The normal daily scene would leave an Occupational Health and Safety officer in Australia pale – two men ride by on a motorbike, the passenger carrying a three metre ladder, at high speed a helmetless adolescent weaves in and out of SUVs, tuk-tuks, bikes and pedestrians – watched by a group of three men in wheelchairs who lost limbs to landmines placed during the terrible internal conflict of more than thirty disability, years ago.

A delegation of Australian politicians visit Cambodia to learn the value of Australian Aid in the country.

A delegation of Australian politicians visit Cambodia to learn the value of Australian Aid in the country.

Cambodia has reportedly the largest percentage of population with a disability in South East Asia – and the rapid growth in access to motorised transport without safe infrastructure means that road traffic accidents now account for more than 10 times the physical impairments still occurring through unexploded landmines.

I’m here with a delegation of six lower and upper Australian parliamentary house members. They are visiting as part of a Gates Foundation grant to enable Save the Children to set up a series of visits with development and humanitarian agencies supported by the Australian Government’s aid program, of which CBM Australia is one.

Since 2010, CBM Australia has partnered with the Cambodian Development Mission for Disability (CDMD), with funding support from the Australian Aid Program. CBM Australia supports CDMD to provide a comprehensive and empowering approach to disability inclusion in Cambodia across five provinces, and supports more than 140 Self-help groups of people with disability and their families.

Participation in CDMD Self-help groups leads to positive psychological and economic changes, as well as increased household incomes for people with disability. And this is what the delegation is coming to see.

The plastic chairs have been covered with brightly coloured material – a normal custom for weddings and other important events in Cambodia. Even some old electric fans are wheeled in to keep the politicians comfortable – and the normal offerings of drink and fruit are generous. Everything is set as the Australian politicians arrive at a commune outside of Phnom Penh.

The visit aims to set the context in which Cambodian people with disability live and the ongoing challenges related to income, access, participation and rights. Also, it aims to give a glimpse of the kind of ongoing community work led by CDMD and its committed staff and volunteers.

The Self-help Group of 12 women and men are part of CBM-partner CDMD’s network of empowering people with disability to problem solve and support each other in finding solutions to the challenges they face in their lives. Also present is the Vice-President of the Commune – a local politician – and the Australian politicians congratulate him for his response to meeting some of the needs of people with disability.

After we give a contextual overview of challenges facing the broader population of people with disability in Cambodia, the delegation hear the personal stories of three group members who had benefited through increased commune support and loans to assist in livelihood activities: small businesses and chicken farms amongst others.

A CDMD volunteer advocate, Chenda, gives a very moving account of her own commitment to changing attitudes, looking for greater educational opportunities, and the promotion of rights for all people with disability.

Chenda was born blind, as was her younger brother, and through the encouragement of her family and support from organisations such as CDMD and Handicap International, she was studying psychology at the Royal Phnom Penh University.  Through working as a disability rights advocate, she has learnt much about engaging with authorities, and her speech is a great indication of her skill.  She is extremely diplomatic but also able to communicate clearly the challenges of access to education and to fulfilment of rights.

“You gave a really inspiring talk. Thanks so much”.  A group of women politicians gathered around Chenda to congratulate her on her part in the meeting.

I was very impressed with this delegation – the politicians sat patiently during the translations and listened respectfully.  They asked intelligent questions and seemed to genuinely try to fit this scene from semi-rural Cambodia and the Self-help group’s stories into a way of thinking about the Australian Aid program.  The constant movement of chickens and the local itinerant salesmen’s tuk-tuk loudspeakers provided a dose of reality that seemed to be appreciated by all. And their words of thanks and appreciation – particularly to Chenda and to the commune’s vice-president – were very sincere and heartfelt.

In 2015, CDMD with the support of CBM Australia and funding support from the Australian Aid Program, changed lives by:

  • 12,271 people with disability referred to health services
  • 339 children with disability enrolled in school
  • 542 people with disability improved their income through livelihood schemes, vocational training and participation in Self-help groups
  • 51 non government organisations and commune councils integrating disability inclusion into development plans
  • 274 awareness-raising events

 

Politicians who attended as part of the delegation included:

Mr Dan Tehan MP

Ms Gai Brodtmann MP

Senator Linda Reynolds CSC

The Hon Darren Chester MP

Ms Lisa Chesters MP

Ms Sharon Claydon MP

Thank you to Save the Children and the Gates Foundation for making this visit possible.

Building a world where everyone thrives

This blog was written by CBM Australia Advocacy and Policy Officer, Rachel Wallbridge, for contribution to the Campaign for Australian Aid blog.

In 2013, I had the privilege of working in the human rights field in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, in West Africa.

One night, I went to the national theatre and watched a play written by a famous Ghanaian playwright. I was greatly enjoying the production, especially the humorous reflections on Ghanaian culture and everyday life. However, my enjoyment suddenly halted when I observed the audience’s reaction to a character with disability. His disability was the comic relief of the entire play – every time he spoke, the audience roared with laughter. I didn’t find this funny.

After the play, my eyes were opened to a few uncomfortable realities.

I observed that the most isolated people – physically and socially – were most often people with disability and those with mental illness. I noticed that most street beggars were people with disability – not because they can’t work, but because they aren’t given the same opportunities to go to school or get a job. I saw a newspaper reporting on a case of infanticide – a baby had been killed by her own parents because she had a disability.

Two years later, I am back working in Australia and what drives me every day is imagining a world where all people, including people with disability, can enjoy their human rights and have the opportunity to thrive.

Australian Aid provides this opportunity.

Thanks to Australian Aid, people with disability living in some of the poorest communities now attend school for the first time, receive life changing healthcare and assistive devices, earn a living and are included in their communities.

Globally, one billion people have a disability – yet 80 per cent live in low and middle income countries. After my experience in Ghana, I can believe this statistic.

But I do feel hope.

For the first time the world has recognised that to end poverty, we need to include people with disability. The 2030 Agenda, including the Global Goals have 11 references to disability: this is worthy of celebration and hope.

Together and with the support of Australian Aid, we can advocate for and build a world that is fair, inclusive and safe for all people.

Will you join me?


 

Building a World For All by 2030

Imagine a world where people of all abilities have equal opportunities to thrive; a world where no one is left behind. That’s a world we can build by 2030.

Today is International Day of People with Disability; a United Nations sanctioned day which is celebrated each year on December 3. It’s an important day to raise awareness of the barriers people with disability so often face, and to promote action to include people with disability in all aspects of society.

This year, our celebrations highlight the recently adopted Global Goals – a set of 17 ambitious goals for global development that set out to end poverty, combat climate change, and reduce inequalities for all.

Over the next 15 years, these goals will transform our world and guide development efforts to leave no one behind. People with disability – who make up 15 per cent of the global population – are included in the goals.

Take a look at the new video we have created “Building a World For All” to celebrate International Day of People with Disability. It shows how the Global Goals can transform the lives of people with disability and build a better world for all.

This year’s theme is: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities. According to United Nations Enable:

“Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.”

Empowering people with disability through building an inclusive world where everyone has equal opportunities to reach their full potential, not only benefits people with disability, but benefits society as a whole.

This International Day of People with Disability, let’s look forward and know that building that world is within our grasp. By 2030, we can build a world no one is left behind.

Will you help us build it? Share the video via the links below and celebrate this important day with us!

International Day for Persons with Disabilities 2015

5 year old Nirmal had very poor vision and was identified by CBR staff of CBM partner Biratnagar Eye Hospital in Nepal during an eye screening camp at his school. After a comprehensive assessment of his eyes he was provided with customized glasses.

5 year old Nirmal had very poor vision and was identified by CBR staff of CBM partner Biratnagar Eye Hospital in Nepal during an eye screening camp at his school. After a comprehensive assessment of his eyes he was provided with customized glasses.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), also known as World Disability Day is annually observed on 3 December each year. This Day aims to promote an awareness of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Theme for 2015

Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

When spoken about in terms of disability, ‘inclusion’ means the concept of everybody – irrelevant of any kind of ability – being accepted into society without pity, restriction or limitation.

The estimated one billion people living with disabilities globally face many barriers to inclusion in key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society the same way others do. Transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation remain a distant dream.
The exclusion of any individual from society affects not only this person and their family, but also the economic and social development of their entire community – a significant reservoir of human potential has gone untapped.

CBM advocates for equal rights of persons with disabilities in society and seeks to support healthcare, educational, rehabilitative and income generation services designed to maximise their quality of life. CBM aims to promote inclusion and make comprehensive healthcare, education and rehabilitation services available and accessible to the estimated one billion people in the world experiencing disability.

For people living in poverty with disability, like Lai from Cambodia, access to services that help break down barriers

For people living in poverty with disability, like Lai from Cambodia, access to services that help break down barriers – such as education, employment and healthcare – can assist in promoting the inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities in their families and their communities.

Agenda 2030: a look back and looking ahead

Elizabeth Lockwood is CBM’s UN Advocacy Officer in New York, and she shares this blog originally posted through CBM International. Elizabeth focuses on developing advocacy strategies to raise awareness, network, build capacity, and lobby for the rights of persons with disabilities at the UN level in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Inclusive Development. She also coordinates efforts of mainstreaming persons with disabilities in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and conducts research and writes briefs to assist with strategies for inclusion of disability issues in Millennium Development Goal efforts. Elizabeth has worked with Deaf communities in five countries focusing on advocacy and grassroots activism, is fluent in five sign languages, and has a Ph.D. in Disability Studies.

Now that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been adopted (on 25 September), it is good to reflect and look back on the process and look ahead to the next steps, particularly in the context of the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Agenda 2030 versus the SDGs

First, I’d like to clarify Agenda 2030 versus the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Agenda 2030 – adopted by the UN General Assembly in September – is a substantive 35-page document containing five major sections (one of which includes the SDGs and targets). The sections of Agenda 2030 include: (1) Preamble, (2) Declaration, (3) Sustainable Development Goals and targets, (4) Means of implementation and the Global Partnership, and (5) Follow-up and review. All the components are important, as they are interlinked, yet the SDGs are the main tool for monitoring and implementation, and are particularly important at the national and regional levels. Additionally, the SDGs are important for persons with disabilities as they contain seven explicit references to persons with disabilities.

The SDGs versus the MDGs

The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight goals agreed in 2000 to end extreme poverty by 2015. The MDGs have had a tremendous effect on the collaboration and prioritization of development work in developing countries over the last 15 years. Yet, persons with disabilities were not referenced in the MDGs and consequently excluded from many development programs and funding streams. The SDGs and inclusion of persons with disabilities now provide an avenue for disability-inclusive development

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Adopted in 2000 and end in 2015 Adopted in 2015 and end in 2030
Focus on developing countries Focus on all countries
To reduce extreme poverty To eradicate poverty in all its forms of sustainable development: economic (prosperity), social (people), and environmental (planet)
8 goals and 18 targets with 48 indicators 17 goals and 169 targets with 224 proposed indicators
No references to persons with disabilities 7 references in SDGs: education (2), employment, reducing inequalities, inclusive cities (2), disaggregation of data by disability [11 in Agenda 2030; 5 in indicators]

Looking back

The road to Agenda 2030 began in 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in which one of the outcomes was an agreement by Member States to create a process to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs). Subsequently, on January 22, 2013 the UN General Assembly called for the establishment of the Open Working Group by decision 67/555. The 30-member Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG) was tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs. Importantly the OWG opened the doors for civil society participation at an unprecedented level.

The OWG sessions ran from March 2013 until July 2014. The early sessions (March to June 2013) covered assessment and knowledge building, and following (November 2013 to February 2014), thematic discussions took place. The final sessions (March to July 2014) centered on debate, discussion, and finalization of the OWG report. The Report of the OWG was agreed by acclamation on July 19, 2014, which contained the SDGs.

Following the lengthy OWG process, the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations took place from January 19 to August 2, 2015 with all Member States and thus more comprehensive. The SDGs were not re-opened for negotiations. On August 2, 2015 “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was agreed by consensus by Member States, this document, with minor changes, became the final document (Agenda 2030) officially adopted in September.

Looking ahead

Positively, persons with disabilities are strongly included in Agenda 2030 with 11 references, seven of which are in the SDGs. Read here for details. Currently, persons with disabilities are also included in four proposed global indicators: (1) Poverty Eradication Indicator 1.3.1, (2) Employment Indicator 8.5.2, (3) Education Indicator 4.5.1, and (4) Peaceful and Inclusive Societies Indicator 16.7.1. Furthermore, the chapeau (introduction) of the final IAEG Report will contain statement on disaggregation of data that includes disability: “SDG indicators should be disaggregated where relevant by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location, or other characteristics, in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.” For additional details, read more here.

Now the focus of implementation must turn to national and regional contexts. Ministries and government will begin to focus on and implement the SDGs, especially those they consider national priority areas. Consequently, to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in this process, it is important to:

  • Push for the disaggregation of data by disability (in line with international standards) in national surveys to be used for the implementation and monitoring of Agenda 2030.
  • Create linkages between implementation and monitoring of Agenda 2030 in the global, regional, national, and local contexts linked to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This is key as the UNCRPD is legally binding and Agenda 2030 is voluntary.
  • Support DPOs and persons with disabilities as leaders and active participants in implementation and monitoring.
  • Identify key strategic partners for lobbying local and national governments.
  • Work as a networks, coalitions, and alliances with a unified message.

It is time to learn from our partners at regional, national, and local levels, as Agenda 2030 now will center on these areas. We must link the global processes to all levels and ensure that information is shared both ways.

Stay tuned in the next months for updates on the roadmap of the global implementation of Agenda 2030.

Related Blogs

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is officially adopted!

Agenda 2030 and Persons with Disabilities: A Closer Look

 

Empowering women with disabilities – why it’s vital to our societies

Jane Edge became the Chief Executive Officer of CBM Australia in July this year. Three weeks later she was in India visiting our partner programs and witnessing first-hand the transformative work of CBM.

I have been actively engaged in social change and international development for over 20 years and been privileged to work with many wonderful people, learning about different cultures and spending time in poor communities that are far from the tourist routes. Joining CBM Australia has allowed me to continue making a difference in the world through my work, which has been a lifelong principle and intrinsic to living out my Christian faith in a practical way.

Having recently visited India, I’d like to share the story of an extraordinary woman named Premnika.

Premnika is 35, both of her legs are severely affected by polio – she is unable to stand without support. Her parents are very poor and she had a very difficult childhood defined by neglect and discrimination.

Having met a young man of a different religion, they married, but this was not accepted by her parents who wanted nothing to do with her. The couple began their life together somehow but the strain of grinding poverty took its toll, and domestic violence became a regular event.

Premnika had two operations in a bid to improve her mobility, which is particularly challenging in a remote rural area. The lack of support she received from her family and the cost of the treatment ”broke her from the inside”. She was frequently thinking about ending her life when she was brought into the Community based rehabilitation program (CBR) of a CBM partner organisation. The project aims to improve social inclusion and quality of life of people with disability where disability specific services are extremely limited.

Premnika was counselled and persuaded to give the program a chance. She received leadership training and became a focal point in her village for disability rights and rehabilitation. She also received livelihood training and was interested in tailoring work. This work in rural areas, where electricity supply is very poor, requires strong, lower limbs. In Premnika’s case, willpower overcame that challenge. She was a given small loan to buy a sewing machine, given training and support to expand her business and links to market. Today, she has four machines and employs three other young women in her village. She particularly wants to empower other young women with disabilities. Premnika now earns about 15,000 Rupees per month – about $325 – which is such a significant change.

Last year, her achievements and contribution as a leader were recognised when she was honoured by the Chief Minister in her region, as a state role model. Premnika is an inspiration for many other people living with disability who strive to lift themselves out of poverty.

It’s truly a team effort. Together with our partners, our dedicated supporters, staff and volunteers, I’m proud to report from the frontline that we are having an extraordinary impact, improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Out in the field from Kenya

CBM supporters Christine, Wendy and Dona recently spent a week in Kenya experiencing the work of CBM first-hand.

This week, we recount the highlights of their travels as they are equally heartbroken and inspired meeting CBM partners, and beneficiaries whose lives have been ultimately transformed through the generosity of CBM supporters.

Day 1 – Dona

Why? One may ask, why subject yourself to live yellow fever, typhoid and cholera inoculations, daily doses of Malaria tablets, to view the work of CBM in Kenya (and I certainly asked myself those questions before embarking on this field trip). The reasons at first were purely logical: the commencing date of the field trip perfectly coincided with, to the day, a return from a walking pilgrimage in Spain; and, as a Uniting Church co-ordinator of Luke 14, I was interested in learning more of the work of CBM.

Christine, CBM’s Linda Mwania, Dona, Wendy and CBM’s Rob Nicholls

Christine, CBM’s Linda Mwania, Dona, Wendy and CBM’s Rob Nicholls arrive in Nairobi and head out to the Maasai Markets for a cultural experience.

This first day, which happened to be a Sunday, was full of adventure. After a good, jet lag inspired sleep, we ate a hearty breakfast, and headed off to church. “Nairobi Chapel, was held under a giant tent. We felt warmly embraced by 1000’s of worshippers, beautiful instrumental praise and excellent teaching on Peter’s call to ‘go beyond’ from Acts 3-4, and an inspirational call for ‘E Groups’ to become more focussed on discipleship, care and evangelism. Was it really 2 hours?

We then ventured out for a bit of culture shock… in the shape of the “Maasai markets”. The vibrant colours of fabrics, jewellery, beading, paintings, sculptures, along with the fervent negotiation of price, left us feeling totally “exhiler-austed”… a whole new experience, calls for a new word!

From one amazement to another… Dinner with Kirsten, the regional director of CBM, who administers Kenya, Tanzania, and beyond – a woman of many gifts, with a passion for transforming lives; this trip has already left the inoculations well worth the jab and swig!

Day 2 – Wendy

CONFRONTING would be an appropriate description of our field trip to one of Nairobi’s slums, where we visited a school where a day care unit for children living with mild to severe physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy were cared for by a team from CBM’s field partner APDK (Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya).

Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK)

Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK) Headquarters; Employing people living with disability to manufacturing wheelchairs and tricycles

The mothers shared their heartbreaking stories of all the difficulties of raising a child who lived with severe disability. They were unable to walk, and in some cases feed themselves, and in a couple of instances their husbands had abandoned the family, others were single mothers, and several had other children.

They told of the rejection by the community, due to ignorance, superstition, religious and cultural biases, the isolation they suffered often locking the child in the house so they could attend to their various needs. They told of the difference their lives had become with the support of CBM, and being able to bring their child to day care, which is a preparation for going to school, (although some may never achieve that), The children are supported by CBM and APDK with wheelchairs and various occupational and physiotherapies, and social, and field workers, who visit and provide support, as there is no government financial assistance.

Wendy meets one of the mothers accessing APDK day care support

Wendy meets one of the mothers accessing APDK day care support.

Their attendance there at day care means that their mums are able to work to support themselves and their family or attend to the needs of their family.
Earlier in the day we visited the APDK headquarters in Nairobi, where physio, and occupational therapy are carried out, and impressively, wheelchairs, and tricycles are manufactured.

The tricycles are hand operated wheelchairs, but with room to carry goods, and an umbrella, so that a paralysed person can carry on a mobile business, and be independent. Most of the employees there at that factory have physical disabilities, so, again, the disabled, or as their sign says, “People with other abilities” are employed.

Day 3 – Dona

If I were to describe this day as briefly as possible, I would choose the words, “scintillating joy”.

AIC Kajiado Children’s Centre and Prevention of Blindness programs.  Wendy and Christine witness a Maasai woman’s surgery.

AIC Kajiado Children’s Centre and Prevention of Blindness programs. Wendy and Christine witness a Maasai woman’s surgery.

We drove east of Nairobi to visit the Massai community where the AIC Kajiado Children’s Centre and Prevention of Blindness program offers medical and pastoral care for those with a wide range of disabilities, from Cerebral Palsy and cataracts to club foot and stroke.

We were greeted by the very caring and professional director, Daniel, and were then led to the cataract examination area. Turning the corner, I had my first glimpse of the Massai women… tall, dignified, strong and wise, fabrics draped in brilliant colours, ears laced with brightly coloured beads, necks encircled with many bands of woven colour and dangling silver chains. Many had one eye covered, waiting eagerly for the eye patch to be removed.

After surgery, a patient is guided back to her bed to rest with a patch on for 24 hours.

After surgery, a patient is guided back to her bed to rest with a patch on for 24 hours.

We greeted each other initially with some reservation, but soon conversation grew, and we were welcomed into their world with smiles and hugs. One lady, dressed in purple, with thousands of beads, was ‘Susan’ who was 55, and had 12 children. Her husband sat opposite, dressed in a grey suit, his ears revealing a lifetime of elaborate decoration. When her patch was removed, she was overcome with joy, as were each of the others. Another sat for a long time, with her arm around my shoulders – and it felt warm with the heart and soul of our mother father God. She joyfully praised God for her healing.

We noticed some Massai women who were waiting for operations the next day, weaving their necklaces. We bought some from them, and took a ‘selfie’ in celebration of a day that was more than memorable.

We had experienced once again the fantastic results of CBM sponsorship – evident in changed lives brought about by authentic supportive communities and skilled staff whose care for those with disabilities is miraculous. We saw the fabulous diverse creativity of our God who plants His unabashed love into those who answer His call.

Day 4 – Christine

We return to Nairobi for our final day of new sights and experiences. We followed the right arm of the Rift Valley, the views at the top were spectacular plus, of course, many colourful roadside stalls.

We visited the AIC CURE children’s hospital. After a briefing on the work and vision of the hospital we enjoyed a lovely Kenyan lunch. In addition to the children treated at the hospital they have 38 regular outreach clinics especially to care for children with club feet. These clinics enable weekly plaster changes for 6-8 weeks then splinting. This often avoids the need for surgery. There are also monthly mobile clinics. The hospital provides full rehabilitation services including splints, prosthetic limbs and wheel chairs. The family liaison counsellor shared his own journey of scoliosis and a near fatal spider bite.

Christine at AIC CURE Children’s hospital.

Christine at AIC CURE Children’s hospital.

There is still a lot of stigma attached to congenital abnormalities. The patients we visited included a child with severe cerebral palsy who had a release of groin contractures. This will assist him to be able to use a special chair in the future. There were both congenital and traumatic leg/feet abnormalities corrected. One 7 year old boy had hand surgery to release burn contractures. Both he and his twin were burnt in a fire at four months old. Their treatment included skin expanders under the scalp for three years. Their mother was so happy that soon they both be able to function fully.

Another man had both his legs amputated for a “leprosy like” condition. He has been restricted with mobility using a wheelchair. With prosthetic legs he is now able to start his own business and rejoiced that he can now attend church again. His brother will have the same surgery soon. Private clinics assist the funding for much needed treatment for those who can’t afford much, if anything at all. After overcoming fear and reluctance to accept treatment, they will experience a improved quality of life that opens up more opportunities and a better future.

Day 5 – Wendy

This will probably be the last post before we fly back to Australia tomorrow night (Friday), when we will arrive in Brisbane on Sunday morning!
After an hour and a half in the snail paced Nairobi traffic, we reached our hotel, which was built in the heady days of the 1930’s, and is set in lush gardens, manned by armed guards.

Dona and Wendy say their farewell’s after an action-packed week in Kenya.

Dona and Wendy say their farewell’s after an action-packed week in Kenya.

Our time in Kenya, has been nothing less than incredible! The things we have seen, and the people we have met, either in community settings, or even in their own homes have been privileges which most people would never have the opportunity to share in.

This has been made possible because we were there as representatives of CBM Australia, and the partners of the work who we visited, and the people they care for, are incredibly grateful for the financial support they receive from CBM.

So we go home with fresh understanding of the impact of the work on the lives and livelihoods of so many people here in this vast continent of Africa, and what a joy and a privilege it has been!

A common voice for justice: Voices for Justice Conference 2015

CBM Australia’s Advocacy Support Officer, Elle Spring, recently attended the Voices for Justice Conference in Canberra; here she writes about her experience. Voices for Justice is an annual Christian advocacy conference in Canberra from October 10 to 13 organised by Micah Australia.

This year I was given the opportunity to attend – which I jumped at. During the four-day conference I had the unique opportunity to gather with close to 200 like-minded Christians from across Australia and raise a united voice to influence our nation’s political leaders and government policy for the benefit of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The first two days of the conference focused on giving participants the knowledge and practical skills needed to take their voice to lobby meetings at Australia’s Parliament House. I attended, along with my fellow participants, a range of engaging workshops, advocacy training, lobby meeting preparations and policy briefings, and listened to inspiring speakers.

Lobby meeting

Elle Spring (left) with Senator Linda Reynolds (middle) and lobby group members at Australian Parliament House, Canberra.

There were many highlights for me during these first couple of days, but if I had to choose just two, it would be listening to Sef Carroll from the Uniting Church speak so passionately about climate change and the impact on women in the Pacific region, as well as an eye-opening simulation of life as subsistence fishing families living in the Pacific.

The simulation broke participants into many family groups and gave us a set of real-life scenarios. The game gave us the smallest glimpse of what is reality for so many families living in the low-lying Pacific islands contending with an unreliable source of income and the impacts of climate change.

By day three, we were armed with all of the information needed to take our voices to Senators and MPs at Parliament House. This year the lobby meetings were calling for climate change action and restoring Australian aid.

Over two days,participants attended almost 100 meetings – in their allocated lobby groups. What a way to unite our voices for justice! My lobby group had two meetings, one with Dr Dennis Jensen MP and the other with Senator Linda Reynolds. It was an excellent experience speaking to Senators and MPs and advocating for issues that we feel so passionate about.

Voices for Justice participants gather on the lawns of Australian Parliament

Voices for Justice participants gather on the lawns of Australian Parliament House for a candle light prayer vigil to pray for a world free from poverty.

While carrying out lobby meetings at Parliament House was obviously a huge highlight, one of the greatest highlights of the conference for me was the Pacific Challenges and Australian Engagement Forum at Parliament House, where the new Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, was amongst the speakers on the panel.

CBM Australia’s community engagement officer, Stevie Wills, also opened the Forum with her new Australian Aid poem, which was performed for the first time at Voices for Justice.

The poem was a strong message to remind the speakers, and audience, that Australian aid is not about charity, it’s about development – and Australia can do more in promoting a just and equal world for all.

The conference also coincided with the launch of Micah Australia – the renewed vision of Micah Challenge. It was an ideal time to reveal the new vision and brand identity of Micah Australia as we were truly putting it into practice – “Do Justice Together”.

Altogether, it was an incredibly inspiring four days. I feel extremely lucky to have added my voice, along with all participants, to a common voice for justice – now let’s continue to do justice together.