Zawadi Balagizi, 31, is an entrepreneur living in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Through training and mentoring, Humanity & Inclusion’s staff helped her cope with the effects of COVID-19 and expand her small business.
Zawadi was exiled from her family because she has a disability. After first seeking refuge in a church, Zawadi chose to migrate to Kenya.
“I began my journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kenya in April 2018,” Zawadi says. “The main reason I embarked on the journey was to get medical attention at a hospital in Nairobi.”
After arriving in Kenya, Zawadi ran out of financial resources and was transferred to the Kakuma refugee camp. There, she started a small business using her sewing skills to make tablecloths.
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global markets, Zawadi felt the impact as well. She depended on her church congregation to sell her products. Due to social distancing and quarantining, people stopped coming to help her, and her customers dwindled.
Expanding her business
Zawadi met Humanity & Inclusion’s team at the rehabilitation center where she received physical therapy sessions and a wheelchair. Zawadi was also included in HI’s livelihood support project. To help her conduct her business, the organization gave her a smartphone and supported her with counseling and training sessions.
“The support I received from HI has helped me cope with life in Kakuma and the business sector,” Zawadi explains.
Zawadi used the grant money she received from HI to improve the accessibility, expansion, and dignity of her business’ workspace. Thanks to HI’s support and the new skills she acquired during training and mentorship programs, Zawadi saw her living standard and business operations improve.
Zawadi intends to expand her business to provide uniforms, covers, and other fabric materials for a local school. She is hopeful that, with time, she will be able to promote her business on social media and open new branches in the Kakuma refugee camp and nearby Kalobeyei settlement.
These actions are supported by the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program.
Patrick, 12, is benefitting from digital schooling in the Kakuma refugee camp. Thanks to accessible and adapted materials, he is prepared to achieve all his professional goals.
Patrick was born with a physical disability. The confines of traditional public schools were making it hard for him to reach his full potential in the classroom. He was not able to balance academics and sports—he loves soccer—and missed some remedial classes as a result.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced most schools to close, and students remained at home. To allow children to continue their studies, it was crucial to help schools adapt to the situation.
With a vision of enabling learners with disabilities and young people to continue their education, Humanity & Inclusion and its partners in Kenya significantly expanded access to e-learning and training for refugees and host communities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei. The organization also strengthened capacities for digital learning to be integrated in classes and teaching once schools re-opened.
Providing more accessible learning
Ekitabu, a digital learning platform, has helped Patrick keep up with his classes. He is now confident in his ability to excel at school, and is relieved to have fewer physical barriers.
“The ability to complete work from anywhere and learn at my own pace has reduced the pressure of having to carry books to and from home every morning,” says Patrick.
Digital lessons at Patrick’s school are offered at scheduled times. There are also storytelling sessions and audio material available on the platform. According to Lilian, a teacher at Patrick’s school, the introduction of digital learning has helped children with visual, intellectual, physical and complex disabilities to find learning fun. They now have access to tablets and can get adapted materials installed for them.
“With the introduction of digital lessons by HI in our school, I am now able to find flexibility between classwork and games,” Patrick explains. “At the same time, I like having access to digital content I never knew existed, to help me excel in my education.’’
This project was supported by the Mastercard Foundation Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Program.
Susan is the head teacher at an inclusive school in the Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya, which is home to many refugee students and their families. To make the school more accessible for students with and without disabilities, Humanity & Inclusion has supported adaptations to the school’s facilities and offered training to staff.
Susan has been a teacher for more than 12 years, starting her career in Sudan. When she left her home country and settled in Kenya, she knew she wanted to continue serving students.
“I love teaching and being with children,” Susan explains. “At first, I didn’t know how to support students with disabilities. But now I’ve had training and I’m more skilled at helping them.”
Inclusive education welcomes all
At the preschool that Susan leads, adaptations have been made to ensure it’s accessible for students with disabilities. New equipment was installed at the playground and accessible restrooms were constructed.
Teachers and staff have also been trained in how best to teach students with disabilities and how to encourage parents of children with disabilities to enroll them in school.
Members of the school committee even visit students at home to make sure they don't miss class.
A supportive community
Susan says the students and broader community are embracing the changes to promote inclusion. On a recent holiday, Susan says students visited her at home, eagerly asking when they could return to the classroom.
“My school is different from other schools,” she explains. “Children with disabilities can access the building and move around without difficulty. Before, attendance numbers were down. Now, students are increasing in number. They love school!”
The preschool in Kalobeyei is part of a pilot project in Kenya to determine the impact of inclusive education on the students, teachers and communities. Humanity & Inclusion teams intend to develop an advocacy plan to be implemented in schools in other communities for years to come.
“Our school is effective,” Susan adds. “But one inclusive school is not enough.”
Fabián, 19, is an entrepreneur. He has expanded his baking business with support of Humanity & Inclusion’s livelihoods project in Santiago de Cuba. This is his story:
My name is Fabián David de la Cruz Carlés. I am 19 years old. At the age of 12, I fell ill with Guillain-Barré syndrome. This caused temporary paralysis in my legs and arms and left me with weakness in my muscles. It was only thanks to the unconditional support of my younger brother and my mother that I was able to cope.
A passion for dessert
It all started when a social worker and a member of my organization of persons with disabilities visited me at home. They came to tell me that a series of training courses were going to be organized for people with disabilities with the support of Humanity & Inclusion. One of the courses was on confectionery. Confectionery is exactly what I like to do! Ever since I was little, I’ve been helping my mother to make sweets for our family.
The social worker asked me questions about our family and about our household’s economic situation. When she suggested that I enroll in the confectionery course, I immediately said yes. I’m old enough to work and I want to help my mother. She is a single mother and she has already done a lot for us. Now it’s my turn to contribute to the household income and support her.
One of the biggest advantages of the project is the training we were given. We are really well-trained in the activity we chose. My mom and I took courses to learn how to make sweet dough, cakes, meringues, and more.
Starting a business
I never imagined that at my age I would be starting my own business. Now, it’s possible with the equipment I received through Humanity & Inclusion. To help me set up my business, the organization gave me an oven, a meringue-making machine, electric hotplates, a mixer and a fridge in excellent condition.
I am very grateful, because this is a wonderful opportunity for me. Today, I feel like a new person. I think this is the most important step in my rehabilitation journey. Through my work, I will be able to boost my family's income and improve our standard of living. I hope that the opportunity I’ve been given will also be offered to other people with disabilities, so that they can start their own business, too.
In Santiago de Cuba, Humanity & Inclusion supports the economic inclusion of people with disabilities. Pedro, who lives with hearing loss, has received a donation of equipment to expand his family’s upholstery business. This is his story:
My name is Pedro Alberto Mora-Lopez. I have been partially Deaf since I was a child. At the age of 14, I learned the upholstery and leatherwork trade and I practice it with passion. I enjoy working with fabric and leather to make cushions, mattresses and other things.
Some social workers came to tell me about the livelihood project that Humanity & Inclusion is implementing for the economic inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities and their families. I hadn’t heard of it before and was very interested in this opportunity. I was told that I could benefit from a donation of equipment to develop my business. I thought it would be nails or cord. I had no idea what to expect.
Despite my many years in the upholstery trade, I didn’t have an electric sewing machine. Every day I had to operate my old machine with my legs and feet, pushing the pedals all day long. My legs were so tired.
So, when I saw all the tools and equipment that were being donated to me, I was delighted. Through Humanity & Inclusion’s project, I was given a sewing machine, hammers, a stapler, pliers, standard needles, shoe needles, scissors, aluminum-cutting scissors aluminum, and much more.
A family-owned business
Now I can work from home with my son. My wife also wants to learn the trade. We've been married for 25 years and she really likes the upholstery business. She helps me with my work every day.
This livelihood project has given a real boost to our family business and made it much less physically demanding. It is also helping to strengthen bonds within the community and enhancing the skills and autonomy of people with disabilities and their families. We’ll be talking about it for a long time to come!
Avotavy used to spend all day alone because of her disability. With rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion, she has improved her mobility and gained the confidence to make friends.
Avotavy, 9, lives with her mother, father, and two siblings in a tiny one-room house in Bezaha, Madagascar. Avotavy was born with a disability that affects her legs, so she is not able to walk or stand on her own. Her lack of mobility had a significant impact on Avotavy’s confidence. Though she could easily move her arms and speak, she spent most of her time sitting completely still, alone and silent in a corner.
One day, Avotavy met with Germaine, a community agent trained by Humanity & Inclusion to identify people who could benefit from rehabilitation services. She connected Avotavy’s parents to a Humanity & Inclusion partner physical therapist who helps her perform exercises and massages her leg muscles to relieve tension. They also teach Avotavy’s parents how to continue the exercises at home. After attending only three sessions, her mobility began to improve–and so did her confidence.
Community Agent Germaine with Humanity & Inclusion's physical therapist, Avotavy and Avotavy's mother.
Rehabilitation makes a difference
“She is now able to crawl, which she could never do before,” her mother explains. “She can also move her feet and sit up on her own. Now that she is moving, she has friends. She runs all around the village on her hands and knees playing games with the other children. Some days she is gone all day playing and laughing. It has made a huge difference!”
Avotavy says that her favorite game to play is “kitchen,” where she pretends to prepare meals using dirt, leaves and rocks as her main ingredients. She and her friends also play a Malagasy game called “tantara,” where they tell stories by hitting rocks together. Each rock represents a different character, similar to playing with dolls.
Avotavy’s dream coming true
Avotavy’s older sister teaches her what she learns at school, so Avotavy can write, draw, and even proudly count to 10 in French! She has always dreamed of going to school herself, but has never been able to because of her disability.
Humanity & Inclusion’s staff have helped her enroll for the upcoming school year, and they say that her mobility will have improved even more by the time classes start. Avotavy can’t wait. She says she will grow up to be a midwife one day.
As Humanity & Inclusion’s team leave Avotavy for the afternoon, her mother smiles wide and eagerly asks, “When is her next session?”
Living with the long-term effects of polio, Nuan faces discrimination and challenges in providing for her family. Humanity & Inclusion has provided her with seed money to raise livestock.
As a child, Nuan was bullied because of her disability. She was unable to complete her schooling because her family could not afford the fees.
Now 34, Nuan is married with children. She is a farmer, but because of her disability and the fact that her husband also has health problems, they do not earn enough to pay for their son's education or save money for emergencies.
Through Humanity & Inclusion’s livelihood support project, Nuan receives financial assistance for her livestock operation. She currently has 14 ducks, 12 chickens and two pigs.
"Even though we do things differently from other people, we should not be despised and discriminated against because we have a disability,” Nuan says. “We want to be independent, not to be a burden. I really appreciate all the efforts made to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities.”
With Humanity & Inclusion, she has participated in a training course on disability and inclusion and is now a disability “champion” in her village.
Because of her can-do attitude, Nuan has been asked to lead the village women's union. She helps other people with disabilities or mobility problems. When the village receives donations of food or clothing, she helps distribute it to the community and ensures that people with disabilities are given equal treatment.
In Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Racheal Njiru works each day alongside people with disabilities to help remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion. Racheal shares insight on her role as the disability inclusive development project manager at the refugee camp.
I’ve been working at Humanity & Inclusion for over three years as project manager. I chose the humanitarian sector because I love community work. I’ve always felt the need to help others. I trained in the social sciences at Daystar University, in Nairobi, to get the skills and knowledge I need to do this
I particularly enjoy working in the socio-economic sector, supporting refugees in developing their businesses. I want to help bring about positive change, to contribute to the socio-economic development of my country, and more generally of Africa.
Remarkable stories and people
What motivates me is to see that I can make a difference in someone's life. I like to support people in developing a project and see their situation improve. It’s very inspiring to meet people we’ve helped and whose lives have changed.
Some stories leave their mark. I remember one woman who really impressed me. Every month, she delivered coal to a company. Then Covid-19 came along, which upset everything and threatened the survival of many small private businesses like hers. But she wasn’t discouraged. She used the financial support and training that Humanity & Inclusion gave her to save money and build five rental houses. Now she can rent them out and has a new income stream. I really admire this woman's strength and determination.
Everyday problems in the refugee camp
Kakuma camp is home to more than 240,000 refugees who live in very cramped conditions. The resources available to them are insufficient and ill-adapted. For example, there are not enough schools for the number of students. Even the geographical location of the camp is not ideal. It's located in Kenya's arid zone where it can get extremely hot. During periods of drought, people are in danger of losing their livelihoods.
For people with disabilities, there are also physical barriers affecting accessibility in the camp. The infrastructure is not adapted and some people with disabilities have to depend on their relatives to help them access buildings or get around the camp.
Refugees with disabilities face systemic obstacles and barriers. For example, they are not members of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. This means they don’t benefit from the measures in place for people with disabilities in Kenya, such as training opportunities, distributions of mobility aids or tax exemption for businesses.
It is vital to understand that the people we work with face complex issues, which can make them more vulnerable than others. For example, when different services are offered within the camp, we have to take care to include those who are most vulnerable by asking the right questions. Who are the people most at risk? Will they have access to distribution sites? It is our responsibility to take these aspects into account when identifying needs and delivering humanitarian aid.
In the Kakuma refugee camp, Humanity & Inclusion runs a project which offers functional rehabilitation, psychosocial support & inclusion services, as well as inclusive education and economic inclusion projects. Our goal is to empower everyone to be autonomous. We take a holistic approach, promoting people’s dignity and aiming to improve all aspects of their daily lives. Inclusion is everyone's business and together we can make a difference!
A valuable member of Humanity & Inclusion’s team in Madagascar, Deriaz ensures that rehabilitation patients get the support they need.
In Tuléar, Humanity & Inclusion partners with the center for rehabilitation and prosthetic fitting at the regional hospital. Trained community agents identify individuals who could benefit from rehabilitation services, stimulation therapy and artificial limbs., then Humanity & Inclusion links them to the appropriate services, covers associated costs, organizes logistics and follows their progress.
Q: What is your role?
My name is Deriaz Christian, and I work for the Improved Continuum of Inclusive Maternal and Child Health Care and Rehabilitation project in the southwest region of Madagascar. I have been working with Humanity & Inclusion for almost three years now.
When people come to the rehabilitation center, I support them throughout the process. My role is to accompany, supervise and organize their visits. I reserve and cover the finances of their cabs and buses to travel to the center, and I book their accommodation here. I also manage the payments that cover their food costs while they are here receiving services. We oversee the whole process to make sure everyone can access rehabilitation services.
Sometimes the coordination is complicated, because there are different kinds of patients for different services, and sometimes many people come at the same time, so it’s important to know everyone well and to be organized.
Q: What do you like most about your work?
I love everything about my work! I love taking care of the people we serve because I get to have a relationship with everyone.
In my previous job, I worked with vulnerable populations, too. But here at Humanity & Inclusion, I get to work with people living in vulnerable circumstances and people who have disabilities. As someone with a disability myself, I want to help people in similar situations. (Complications from polio led to a disability that affects Deriaz’s leg.)
The patients that have had the biggest impact on me are people with total paralysis, in both their lower limbs and upper limbs. We see just how far society still has to go to be accessible for these individuals.
Q: Any final thoughts?
My message is to raise awareness in everyone, especially in people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. They should not hide. Instead, bring children with disabilities and people with disabilities here to the center for rehabilitation and prosthetic services that so they can be taken care of.
Tok, 27, lost his leg in a work accident. Over the last two years, Humanity & Inclusion has provided him with an artificial limb and rehabilitation care in Laos.
Five years ago, Tok was hired to cut down a tree that was touching a power line. When the tree fell, it crushed his left leg. Tok managed to call his brother, who rushed him to hospital, but his leg was too badly damaged and had to be amputated. Tok’s acquired disability presented challenges and prevented him from performing certain everyday tasks.
In 2020, Humanity & Inclusion referred Tok to its rehabilitation center, where he received physical therapy and an artificial limb. Since then, Tok has regained independence.
Today, Tok’s living conditions have improved significantly. He can work again and has started to raise livestock. He is also employed by the Lao electricity board, collecting data on electricity consumption, distributing bills and collecting dues.
Tok has also joined a group of red mushroom producers and received training in the bamboo value chain, which has helped boost his income. In the future, he hopes to expand his farm and keep goats.
Advocating for disability rights
Tok has also received training from Humanity & Inclusion and Group for Research and Technology Exchanges (GRET) on disability rights and inclusion.
Now a community volunteer, he advocates against discrimination and promotes understanding, acceptance and awareness of the rights of people with disabilities and the importance of their inclusion. He also provides peer support.
His goal is to remove the physical barriers encountered by people with disabilities.
"People with disabilities need support to access public services and opportunities to improve their lives," Tok explains. "I have received a lot of support and it has changed my life."