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.
Shelcia is joyful and intelligent, with dreams of becoming a doctor one day.
Born with a disability that prevents her from walking on her own, Shelcia, 8, uses a wheelchair to move around. She lives with her parents and cousin in Matola, a suburb of Maputo, Mozambique.
Shelcia loves going to school and playing with her friends. She’s currently in Year 3 at the Patrice Lumumba primary school, an inclusive school with teaches trained in providing specific support to students with disabilities.
“My teacher is great," she says. "My classmates are also very nice. They help me during class and at playtime; we all have fun together. During playtime, I like to stay in the classroom and make my friends laugh. I have thousands of friends at school!”
Going to school has completely changed Shelcia’s life. She has discovered a real appetite for learning.
“I love going to school," Shelcia explains. "I love to learn. I already know how to count, and now I'm learning to write vowels."
Shelcia is full of ambition and there is no stopping her. She wants to become a doctor with the clear goal of helping other children. Her father, Ananias, shares her ambition.
"My daughter is very intelligent,” he says. “I know she’ll continue her studies and go to university.”
Special support for learning
Shelcia used to have trouble writing because her wheelchair prevented her from sitting at a desk. Through its inclusive education project, Humanity & Inclusion met with her family members who were determined to find a solution. Her father made her a personalized desk by fitting a wooden board to her wheelchair. Now, her notebook and textbooks are at the right height and her hands are free to write.
Ananias also requested extra assistance for Shelcia to help her develop her abilities and continue her schooling. Cristina and Gláucia, members of the Humanity & Inclusion’s team in Mozambique, provide her with specific support and organize regular coaching and information sessions, in person or by telephone.
“They often come to the house, and are a great help to me,” Ananias says. “They are my pillars.”
Students help each other
Shelcia's school is a bit far from her home, so her father and cousin help her get there on time.
"My daughter can get around at home or at school, no problem,” Ananias explains. “But it’s more difficult for her to use public transport because people ignore her disability. They don’t help her to get on the bus, for example.”
At school, though, Shelcia’s teachers and classmates are accepting and helpful.
“The fact that the school is inclusive is very important because it’s a step towards the inclusion of children with disabilities,” Ananias continues. “In an inclusive school, children are taught to help and support each other. In this way, other children learn that disability does not make you different.”
Sundari, 11, has an intellectual disability that creates memory and learning difficulties. With the support of Humanity & Inclusion in Nepal, she’s enrolled in a class adapted to her needs.
A fifth grader, Sundari lives in a dormitory at the school, which is more than 60 miles away from her home. Her favorite subject is science. She recently made a presentation to her classmates in which she drew an animal cell on the whiteboard and talked about its different parts.
“I want to become a doctor one day to save people’s lives and help the elderly,” Sundari explains.
Sundari spends most of her time with her best friend, Bipana. Together, they play Ludo, a strategy board game that is Sundari’s favorite.
"Sundari is very open and friendly,” Bipana says. “She sometimes gets angry, but I can calm her down really quickly."
Inclusive education resources
The resource class in Sundari’s school caters to 30 students with disabilities. Children learn the Nepali and English alphabets, numbers, words, body parts, as well as hygiene and self-care. When they’re ready, students join their classmates for inclusive lessons.
“Sundari was enrolled in the resource class – a class where children with intellectual disabilities study together - when she was 5 years old,” explains her teacher, Bhupendra Khadka. “She was enrolled during her early childhood development years and has since progressed to mainstream classes. She is now second in her class.”
Children in resources classes range in age from 7 to 17, with some even in their 20s. Like Sundari, some transition to mainstream classes after a few years in a resource class.
Over the past four years, the school’s resource class has been supported by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partner HUSADEC (Human Rights, Social Awareness and Development Center). Resource classes welcome children with a range of disabilities, including sensory and intellectual disabilities.
Only 380 of Nepal's 30,000 schools have resource classes, and Humanity & Inclusion supports a 50 of them. Teams provide educational materials adapted to the needs of children with disabilities, including braille books or sign language learning mobile applications. Other support materials include foam letters, word cards, toy balls, storybooks in local languages and stationery. Educators are also trained to adapt their teaching methods to the needs of children with disabilities.
Last school year, Humanity & Inclusion also provided hygiene kits and school bags to 500 students with disabilities in 46 resource classes across 10 districts to help them continue to learn during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Promoting disability inclusion
Uttam Prasad Bhattarai, the headmaster of Sundari’s school, explains that in rural villages, acceptance of children with disabilities can be challenging.
“There is a social stigma associated with disability,” Bhattarai says. “When children with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, enter a mainstream class after their entrance examination, some parents of children without disabilities are reluctant to send their children to the school. Children with disabilities tend to enroll in school at later ages than their peers and so they are older than their classmates."
Humanity & Inclusion and its local partners continue to fight for access to education for children with disabilities.
The resource classes have been supported by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partner since May 2018 as part of the Reading for All program, which is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Insecurity in Chad’s Lake Province has prevented thousands of children from attending school. Humanity & Inclusion works to improve their access to education, protection and psychosocial support.
Since 2010, armed conflict in Chad has internally displaced over 400,000 people and prevented nearly 25,000 children from attending school. The unstable situation left the region with insufficient teachers, schools and learning materials. Humanity & Inclusion supports the physical, psychosocial and intellectual protection of children impacted by the crisis by improving access and quality of education. The organization has contributed to the construction of classrooms, child-friendly play areas, and hygienic facilities including accessible toilets for children with disabilities.
Humanity & Inclusion has recruited, financed and trained teachers to better provide inclusive education, psychosocial support and protection of students. The organization also distributes supplies such as backpacks, textbooks and pens to students and provides financial support for other materials needed. Present in 12 zones, this education project targets 12,000 children, including 6,000 girls and 2,400 children who have disabilities or face other challenges to education.
Fatime, 11, and Mai, 14, are students at a new school for displaced children in Chad.
Fatime attends school for the first time
My name is Fatime Zara. I am 11 years old. I’m from the Yiroubou sub-prefecture of Bol and I live with my parents. Before coming to the Ngourtou Koumboua site for displaced persons, I had never been to school.
I am so happy to see an elementary school in Ngourtou Koumboua for the first time. A year ago, we didn't expect to see classrooms, but today, thanks to Humanity & Inclusion’s support, we have classrooms, school kits, text books, teachers, bathrooms, a school cafeteria, and a safe space to play.
The school brings me knowledge and intelligence. My favorite subject is reading. I also play in the child-friendly space and participate in activities like clean latrine contests organized by the hygiene club.
I hope to continue my studies until the end. I don’t want to be married until I am of age, and I want to choose my own husband. I am motivated to go to school and learn the French language because it will allow me to have a job. My dream is to be a humanitarian, because helping people is really important to me.
Mai finds a safe space amid conflict
My name is Mai Djibrillah. I am 14 years old and I am from Yiroubou, in the islands of Bol. I am in the CP2 class and I live with my uncle.
I arrived at the site two years ago following a violent attack in Melea, where I lost my older brother, which pushed us to move and come here. Before coming to the Ngourtou Koumboua site, I went to school in the Melea village. During the move, I was taken away from my school and separated from my friends.
I like being at the school here because I have gotten to know the other children who come from different backgrounds and our teachers show us how to live together peacefully.
I also like participating in the clean-up days our teachers organize every Saturday. My favorite subjects are reading and singing, and I want to be a teacher one day.
Nisha Rai and Reshma Shrestha agree that love and patience are essential in understanding and supporting the learning needs of children with disabilities. The two women work as learning facilitators for the USAID-funded Reading for All program in Nepal.
Rai, who has a master's degree in social science, learned about the vacancy of a learning facilitator in Dhankuta from her brother when she was looking to start her career. So, she applied and began working in April 2021 to support children with intellectual disabilities in the resource classroom.
Rai, pictured above, completed a brief orientation provided by Reading For All staff on the types of disabilities and children she would support. Rai explains that she never had any friends, neighbors or family members living with a disability, so the training she received about disability, functional limitations, learning materials, and behavioral skills have made it easier for her to support the students.
"Initially, I was not sure if I would be able to continue to support the children with intellectual disability, but eventually I have learned to engage with them and love my work," Rai says.
Rai works regularly at the Shree Aadharbhut School's Intellectual Resource Class, where she engages with children using functional toys like balls and sponge letters, as well as electronic tablets. She is proud to see the children welcoming her with smiling faces and gestures every day.
Similar to Rai, Shrestha is a learning facilitator in the Bhaktapur district. She supports children who are blind or have low vision in their studies and beams when describing the value she has found in working with children. Shrestha’s desire to better assist students with low vision motivated her to learn basic braille.
Before becoming a learning facilitator, Shrestha’s experience working with people with disabilities was limited to an internship at a community-based rehabilitation organization. In April 2021, she joined the Reading For All program with the goal of bringing positive change to the lives of children with disabilities.
Shrestha’s loving and caring nature has helped her quickly bond with children and build trust with students’ family members.
Sanju Adhikari, a Reading For All learning facilitator, supports a student who has a disability at a school in Dhankuta.
Barriers to inclusive education
Children with disabilities face challenging barriers to education. Nearly 50% of children with disabilities do not attend school. For every child to learn and develop the skills they need to succeed, they need an inclusive education. According to a study by Humanity & Inclusion, 83% of parents and caregivers of children with disabilities worried that their children would fall further behind in school because of Covid-19.
During the pandemic, the Reading For All program supported 35 resource classrooms with 62 learning facilitators, like Rai and Shrestha, to bridge the learning. Most of the learning facilitators were newly introduced to disability-inclusive education and are continuing careers in the field. These learning facilitators supported children by developing individualized education plans.
“In order to ensure we Leave No One Behind and to meet SDG4, inclusive education goes beyond enrollment in the classroom and requires trained teachers, adequate learning resources, adapted school infrastructure, and engaged parents,” adds Sanju Nepali, Inclusive Education Specialist for Humanity & Inclusion in Nepal.
For 18 months, Longini was unable to walk; he had outgrown his artificial limbs and Covid-19 lockdowns prevented him from getting new ones. If he was going to get back on track, Longini needed replacements as soon as possible.
Longini, now 9, was born with lower limb deformities. When he was 3 months old, his mother, Elisabeth, took him to the nearest hospital, and he was referred to an orthopedic hospital in Ririma. As other children took their first steps, Longini was still unable to walk. When he was 3 years old, doctors performed a double amputation so he could wear artificial limbs later in life.
In between working odd jobs to support Longini and his younger brother, Elisabeth sought out educational opportunities for Longini. After years of searching, she found HVP-Gatagara—a leading center for the rehabilitation and education of people with disabilities in Rwanda. More than 30 miles from their home, the center includes an inclusive boarding school. At 6 years old, Longini was finally enrolled in school.
But Longini’s greatest dream was to learn to walk.
At nearly $900 each, artificial limbs are particularly expensive in Rwanda. Few patients can afford the assistance devices, including Longini’s family. Humanity & Inclusion stepped up to help. The complex housing Longini’s school also includes a rehabilitation center and orthopedic-fitting workshop supported by Humanity & Inclusion. For families unable to afford care, Humanity & Inclusion provides financial assistance.
Fitted with two custom-made artificial limbs, Longini took his first ever steps as a 7-year-old. In no time, he was running around and playing enthusiastically with his friends. His life changed completely.
As a growing boy, Longini regularly needs new artificial limbs. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict measures taken by the government to protect the population meant the orthopedic center had to close its doors. Longini outgrew his worn devices, and it was 18 months before he could be fitted with new ones in November 2021. Longini will need rehabilitation care and artificial limbs for the rest of his life.
‘A joy to watch him now’
Longini is in his second year of primary school, where he lives most of the time.
“When he comes home for the holidays, he can do small jobs around the house, like the dishes or sweeping the courtyard,” Elisabeth adds. “He loves being with other people, going out and running about the local streets with them. All children like him.”
A hard-working student, Longini repeatedly tells his mother he wants to finish his studies so he can get a good job, earn money and support his family.
“My son’s life hasn’t always been easy but it’s a joy to watch him now,” Elisabeth says. “It’s wonderful he’s included with other children. It’s so uplifting.”
On International Mother Tongue Day (February 21, 2022), let's recognize Nepali Sign Language as the mother tongue for thousands of Deaf people who mainly communicate through Sign language.
Many deaf and hard-of-hearing people use Sign language to communicate. There are many different Sign languages depending on the country, and they are the native languages of the Deaf community. Studies also indicate when a child who is deaf or hard of hearing learns sign language, their ability to learn their native spoken language also improves.
Nepali Sign Language is a medium of communication for Nepal’s deaf community. It is a beautiful combination of facial, hand and body language.
According to the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal, there is a population of more than 300,000 people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties. In Nepal, 15,000 Deaf students attend either 22 specialized schools or 174 resource classrooms that meet their specific needs at inclusive schools.
The Reading for All program promotes an enabling environment to support Deaf students, their families, teachers and other people learn Nepali Sign Language. The project, funded by USAID, provides Deaf people a prospect to interact with people who do not sign. To enhance basic Nepali Sign Language skills, the project has developed a learning application called “Mero Sanket.” The free app is available for download on Android devices at the Google Play Store. This is the result of collaboration through the program, which is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with World Education, the National Federation of Deaf Nepal, and the Government of Nepal.
Mero Sanket app promotes communication
Twelve-year-old Abhishek (pictured above) acquired hearing loss when he was 6. He only recently enrolled in a resource class in the western district of Dang in 2021, but his learning was interrupted due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
Initially, Abhishek didn’t seem interested, but Mero Sanket helped to fill a learning gap for him. With the facilitation and motivation of learning facilitator, he agreed to start learning. The project’s learning facilitator introduced the app to the children, helping them interact and continue with their learning during the school's closure. Later, Abhishek found the graphics and video with signs interesting.
“My son used to dress himself up, and wait for the learning facilitator,” Abhishek’s father said recently. “We are now so happy to see the interest and progress of our son in learning."
Since the launch of the app, facilitators have been instrumental in providing remedial support to Deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
“This app is very useful for those who even don’t know or partly knows Nepali Sign Language, especially teachers,” says Sapana Pokhrel, a learning facilitator from Surkhet, in Nepal’s Karnali Province. “They can communicate with the Deaf children. The self-evaluation session in this app is very useful. This is also practical, as it enables discussions on daily-use activities such as greetings, food, hygiene, and sanitation.”
“This app puts Nepali Sign Language into the hands of anyone with an interest in learning it. We wish to take more initiatives to promote inclusive education by developing an additional learning material together and to lay the groundwork for more expanded education opportunities for deaf children," a statement of the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal explains.
"Voice is not only the sound, but also a way of expressing emotions," says Sujata Rai, Project Officer in Dhankuta, a district in Nepal’s Province-1. She wonders how isolated one can feel if they cannot express their feelings as others in their mother tongue.
Reading for All works with children with a variety of disabilities, including children who are Deaf. “Mero Sanket” helps to enhance the learning skills of children, leaning on a Nepali Sign Language learning method with animated features. The objective is to bridge any learning loss children experience during Covid-19, and optimize their learning skills.
The project has already provided 302 digital learning tablets with the “Mero Sanket” app to children and teachers of resource classes. In addition, a 10-day basic Nepali Sign Language training for resource class teachers enhanced the communication in deaf resource classes.
The project is also supporting children with hearing difficulties to connect with their families, friends and teachers through Nepali Sign Language.
Laxman from Dhankuta, had dropped out of school. Despite his family’s best efforts, he refused to return. After receiving support from a learning facilitator, he changed his mind, and re-enrolled at school. "Mero Sanket" has made him interested in studying, and serves as an important learning tool for improved communications with teachers and fellow students.
Parents are also benefiting from "Mero Sanket." Rishi Ram Poudel from Kaski is the father of Manjil, who was born with limited hearing.
“Sign language plays the vital role in our communication within family members," the father explains. He had been struggling to communicate with his son before. With the "Mero Sanket" app, and the help of a learning facilitator who explained how it works, Manjil and his father can communicate more easily.