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Wheelchair Donation Impacts Lives of Children In Tanzania

The Mormon Church and CCBRT partner to help handicapped children

Children living with Cerebral Palsy can be a tremendous challenge to their caregivers. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition where there are permanent movement disorders in its sufferers. This condition creates problems with sensation and communication. Cerebral Palsy comes about when there is damage to the brain during pregnancy or delivery, leaving the children without ability to coordinate upper and lower limb leading to unmanaged motions. 

Parents and guardians of children with CP, are heavily involved in care activities which often leave them with almost no time to do other activities for themselves. As one such CP parent in Tanzania recently stated, “Children with CP often leave their caregivers to live a ‘handicapped’ life as well.” Caregivers have to sacrifice their own happiness, pursuits of education and career to be able to take care of their loved ones. It is often an ultimate form of sacrifice. This is especially so in homes and communities where devices meant to help these children are either not available or affordable.

An invitation was extended to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from CCBRT Tanzania in 2006 to participate in a community rehabilitation program for Cerebral Palsy children in the Moshi area. Working within the Church's major initiatives, the two organizations worked to find the best way to assist these handicapped children. Donation of wheelchairs is one initiative the Church already had in place throughout the world, providing mobility and allowing the recipients to live more meaningful lives and participate in income generating activities. The invitation was accepted by the Church, and in partnership with CCBRT, wheelchairs were delivered to the children.

CCBRT is an eminent organization in Tanzania fighting to help people with disabilities and has a range of programs to help these persons. In the last few years, working with Cerebral Palsy children and their caregivers has become a major part of their work in the Moshi and Arusha areas. In partnership with the Church, specially designed wheelchairs were donated to over 600 children. A specially formed team travelled across the villages of Moshi to screen and assess the children before the chairs were handed out. Caregivers, many of them mothers or grandmothers, were trained on how to take care of their children and use the wheelchairs. The team would also do regular visits to the homes to encourage the mothers as well as do minor repairs on the wheelchairs. In an observation made on a monitoring and evaluation visit, it was noted that Neo, a CCBTR therapist, and her team had developed quite a bond with these caregivers. The children quickly learned to recognize members of the team when they would arrive. One of the favorite homes to visit is where a girl named Catherine stays. She is 12 years old and her mother recognized her condition when she was five months old. She is such a beautiful girl. Catherine is half blind, however, she recognizes when visitors come to visit her and when you press her hand she presses back and smiles. Her mother, a single mum, has sacrificed a lot to be able to bring her up. When asked what this project has done for her and Catherine, she said, “Since I got the wheelchair, I can put Catherine in it and push her to some shade spot in my banana plantation and work while I keep an eye on her." 

This project has indeed touched and connected many lives in Tanzania. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in the process of approving more wheelchairs so that quality of life can be mproved for even more people living with disabilities.

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