Yentougle and Yenhame are 13-year-old twins who both have visual disabilities. Through Humanity & Inclusion's inclusive education project in Togo, they are receiving personalized support to excel at school.
Yentougle and her brother Yenhame are two of seven siblings, four of whom have some level of visual disability. Their family lives in Sibortoti, a village in northern Togo. With a limited income, their parents cannot afford specialized care and schooling. Through an inclusive education project tailored to support students who are blind or living with low vision, the twins are receiving an education adapted to their needs.
Because of their disabilities, Yentougle and Yenhame had difficulty moving around and finding their way on their own. They couldn’t play games with other children and experienced discrimination.
"We couldn't send them on errands," says Tchable Lyabine, the twins' father. "They couldn't help us with the daily chores, like cleaning, or with the gardening. Their mother had to be with them all the time, to take them to school and pick them up afterwards."
In 2012, the siblings were identified by the Association des Personnes Handicapées Motivées de Tône, one of Humanity & Inclusion’s partner organizations. For the past 10 years, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams have provided support to the twins.
Inclusive education and other assistance
Yentougle and Yenhame are enrolled in the local primary school. Humanity & Inclusion has provided them with clothes, backpacks, shoes and other school supplies adapted to their specific needs.
Their teacher receives technical support from Humanity & Inclusion and has been trained in inclusive teaching techniques and methods to help him support the twins with their learning.
Yentougle and Yenhame receive personalized educational support from an itinerant teacher specialized in assisting students with visual disabilities. The teacher visits their home several times a week to provide tutoring, transcribe lessons and help them do exercises in Braille.
Yentougle and Yenhame have received medical support, including consultations and eye care financed by the organization. Humanity & Inclusion and its partner have also provided them with canes to help with their mobility and autonomy. The organizations also distribute food kits to the twins' family.
Awareness-raising activities have been organized within the community to combat the stigmatization of the twins. As a result, Yentougle and Yenhame experience less discrimination. Today, the twins have made friends in their village and play games with other children. Their friends often accompany them home from school.
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.”
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?”
When she was 2, Aminata contracted a disease in her left hand, the cause of which remains unknown. Despite numerous consultations in health centers and with traditional healers, her hand had to be amputated. Now 10, Aminata is enrolled in school and has a new artificial limb with support from Humanity & Inclusion.
"In 2014, my daughter was left with a missing upper limb,” says Youma, Aminata’s mother. “It was a terrible shock for the whole family, totally darkening our future.”
In 2019, a community agent referred Aminata’s family to Humanity & Inclusion. Teams encouraged Aminata's parents to enroll their daughter in an inclusive school that welcomes children with and without disabilities, where the teachers are trained to use adapted teaching methods and tools.
"Shortly after Aminata enrolled in school, her father died,” Youma explains. “We lost all hope for a while. Fortunately, together we had the strength to overcome this painful ordeal.”
With Humanity & Inclusion’s support, Aminata received an artificial arm. The organization accompanied her family throughout the medical process and paid related expenses.
"When Aminata received her prosthesis, we were very relieved that she had been fitted,” Youma remembers. “It was as if she had a 'new arm'. My daughter was really happy to have this prosthesis.”
As part of the project, Aminata also received a complete school kit, including a school bag, pens and notebooks. This was a relief for her family, who could not afford to pay for the young girl's supplies.
In December 2021, Aminata's family moved more than a mile away from the school she attends in Mali.
"I was worried because I thought she would drop out of school because of the distance to our new home," Youma explains. "But Aminata was never discouraged, and she continues to go to school."
Since her enrollment, Aminata has been attending school regularly. Currently in fifth grade, she dreams of becoming a police officer.
"Today, Aminata is my greatest hope," Youma adds.
Ahmad, 10, was born with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Humanity & Inclusion provides him with rehabilitation services and supports his inclusion in school.
With limited movement in his left arm and hand, Ahmad has difficulty dressing, showering, using school materials and writing. He also experiencing challenges with spelling and pronunciation. As a result, Ahmad lacks self-confidence needed to make friends and speak publicly.
Ahmad is one of 144 children participating in weekly sessions at the Mousawat Center, where specialists provide psychomotor and speech therapy, psychological support and parental guidance. After three months, Ahmad’s mobility has improved and he’s become more independent in carrying out his daily tasks at school and home.
"He uses his left arm more and can wash himself,” his mother, Aisha, explains.
Ahmad is also provided with transport services and monthly cash assistance to afford food, water, medication and other basic needs.
Commitment to education
Today, Ahmad attends school regularly and is able to spell many words correctly, read and use all his school materials.
He is talking more and has already made two new friends at school. His family is happy and grateful to see him thrive.
"It is my dream to be able to provide education for my children, because it is the only way to ensure a better future for them,” says Mohammad, Ahmad's father.
Mohammad was a teacher in Syria, and is strongly committed to his children’s education. Ahmad and his family of seven fled the war in Syria and are now living in Lebanon. His father works for an electricity company in Beirut.
This inclusive education program in Lebanon is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with the Mousawat Center. It is funded by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) in partnership with UNICEF.
Rahmat, 9, loves school. At her inclusive school in Mozambique, she receives support tailored to her disability, which causes motor and speech difficulties.
Rahmat is in Year 4 at Benfica Nova primary school—an inclusive school supported by Humanity & Inclusion. She loves school and can't wait to go—pestering her father to take her even when it is closed. Rahmat especially loves reading exercises and even dreams of becoming a teacher when she grows up.
In class, she likes to meet up with her best friend, Joana.
"We play together all the time,” Rahmat says. “She helps me in class and goes with me when I have to go to the toilet."
Learning to write
Due to her disability, Rahmat couldn’t learn to write like the other children; holding a pencil is difficult for her. Rahmat’s teacher, Marta, has been trained by Humanity & Inclusion teams to use inclusive teaching methods. She accompanies Rahmat every day and provides her with personalized activities, including exercises for her writing grip. Over time, Rahmat is gradually learning to use a pencil.
“I still have a bit of trouble writing because my hands shake,” she explains. “I often have to rub out words and write them again. My teacher is teaching me to write the date, my first name and the name of the school.”
With the help of Humanity & Inclusion, Rahmat also receives psychological and learning support through the implementation of educational activities. She will also be receiving speech therapy soon to help her speak more clearly.
Her family's support
Ali, Rahmat’s father, no longer works. He spends a lot of time looking after his daughter.
"Our financial situation is difficult," he explains. "My daughter has many difficulties and special needs, and we have to take good care of her. Now that she can go to school, I have more time to look for a job. For me, it is important for my daughter to be empowered and socially emancipated. School should be inclusive—as should the rest of society!”
Born with Down syndrome, Jawad has difficulty communicating and learning new skills. Humanity & Inclusion is helping him overcome these challenges with learning-based home visits.
Jawad, 5, lives in Amman, Jordan, with his mother. He was born with a developmental disability and experiences difficulties with social interactions, general communication and pre-academic skills such as identifying shapes and colors or following instructions.
To help him develop these skills, Humanity & Inclusion uses a technique known as “portage,” a home-based intervention that targets children with disabilities and developmental delays and teaches caregivers to better assist their children. Humanity & Inclusion also provided Jawad with a pair of glasses to improve his vision.
“Each week we come to Jawad’s home to perform activities that help him develop pre-academic skills,” explains Shaima Anabtawi, Humanity & Inclusion’s Inclusive Livelihood Technical Officer in Jordan. “After an assessment, we create an individual plan based on his needs and we set short-term goals accordingly. Within the first month, the goal is for him to recognize geometric shapes, and respond appropriately to basic requests such as ‘close the door’ or ‘bring the glass.’”
Jawad’s mother plays in integral role in the activities so that she can learn how to incorporate developmental activities into their daily routine and continue his progress between sessions. Humanity & Inclusion’s trained partners help her develop an Individual Family Service Action Plan with activities adapted to Jawad’s goals, the family’s daily life, and their available resources.
Jawad has participated in weekly portage visits for more than five months and has shown significant improvement. He can now identify basic shapes such as circles, squares, and triangles. He can recognize sizes and colors, and he performs many social interactive behaviors, including initiating interactions with others. He continues to show progress each week.
These actions are supported by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Imane, 7, has a hearing disability. Her family fled the war in Syria in 2018 and took refuge in Beirut, Lebanon. She is receiving support through Humanity & Inclusion’s inclusive education activities.
When Imane was 4 years old, she started to show signs of regression in her interactions with others. Her family sensed that something was wrong. Medical examinations revealed that she had partial hearing loss in both ears. Her parents did not know the cause, but believe it might be related to the war or the stressful environment they were living in.
Imane spoke with just a few words, and her parents avoided social situations to protect their daughter from discrimination.
Imane's father works in construction to support his family, while her mother looks after the children at home. With the economic crisis in Lebanon, her parents found it difficult to enroll Imane in an inclusive education program. But with support from Humanity & Inclusion, Imane is now going to school.
Inclusive education for children with disabilities
Humanity & Inclusion seeks to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive an education. Imane has a personalized education plan, which includes psychotherapy and psychomotor therapy. She has shown that she is a quick learner and has made great progress in a short time.
Today, Imane is more active and independent in her daily tasks. She likes to prepare her own food and chop vegetables with her mother.
"Imane plays differently now and enjoys interacting with Said, her little brother,” her father says.
Imane is motivated and now feels that nothing is impossible. Her family is very happy with their daughter's progress.
This inclusive education project is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with the Mousawat Center. It is funded by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in partnership with UNICEF.
Hilario is a physical education teacher at Benfica Nova School in Mozambique, who also lives with a visual disability. With training from Humanity & Inclusion, his classes include a range of inclusive activities.
Hilario, who was born with a visual disability, has always loved sports and teaching. It only made sense for him to become a physical education teacher—and a Paralympic athlete.
When he started his job, Hilario faced challenges because the school was not adapted to his disability.
“In the beginning, we used paper timecards; the boxes were very small and I had real trouble reading them,” he says. “It was the same with the attendance books – the signature space was too small. It was exhausting. I talked to the school administration about it and now we've switched to a digital format, which is more comfortable for me.”
When it comes to teaching, Hilario has no trouble at all.
“I use theoretical rules and practical examples to help students understand my lessons,” he explains.
Training teachers to promote inclusion
Hilario did not have the opportunity to attend an inclusive school growing up, so he understands that children with disabilities can feel left out.
“As a student, I was accepted in class, but nothing was done to make me feel really included,” he adds.
Hilario has received inclusive education training from Humanity & Inclusion’s teams, and he hopes more educators learn inclusive practices for teaching students with and without disabilities.
"They taught us methods and gave us tips on how to include students with disabilities in our lessons," he explains. “I found it very instructive and now I can apply what I learned in my daily work. I can make sure that all my students have access to quality inclusive education.”
Passionate about his job, Hilario feels that his professional life has strengthened his autonomy and self-esteem.
“I chose to be a teacher so that I could make a difference through my work,” he continues. “My job is very fulfilling.”
In addition to teaching, Hilario is also an athlete. He completed as a runner in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics runner.
“It was an amazing experience”, Hilario recalls. “I worked very, very hard to compete, but it wasn't just about competing or winning. It’s also really important to build strong relationships with your colleagues, so that you can celebrate these special moments together. As I’m a very sociable person, I talked to everyone. I tried to help my teammates. I was part masseur, part coach and part psychologist.”
For the first few years of her life, Christina hardly communicated at all. Today, with support from Humanity & Inclusion, she’s showing encouraging progress.
Christina, 4, experiences language difficulties and has an intellectual disability. The youngest of three children, Christina was not communicating the same way her older siblings had at her age. Her mother, Rouchim, became concerned and started looking for answers and available services.
The family contacted GENIUS School, a special school for children with disabilities. Christina's initial assessment confirmed language difficulties and a mild intellectual disability. She communicated only by pointing, eye contact and hand gestures.
Christina was then enrolled in an inclusive education project, implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with GENIUS School. The program in Lebanon is funded by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), in partnership with UNICEF.
The program offers weekly rehabilitation services such as speech therapy, psychomotor therapy, psychological support, parental guidance, classroom assistance and support.
With support provided from a multidisciplinary team, Christina's communication skills are improving. Today, Christina is able to communicate her thoughts and needs and understand instructions, which is boosting her self-confidence and social skills.
"Last year we were desperate and sad,” Rouchim explains. “I thought my child would never talk and never be able to go out and play with all the other children, or even be accepted by others. Now our life has changed, we are very happy. Christina is able to communicate with us.”
Christina's parents strongly believe in her right to education and will continue to advocate for equal access to services.