Kenya | Despite Covid-19 challenges, entrepreneur expands sewing business
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.
Kenya | Inclusive education today for inclusive futures tomorrow
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.
Kenya | Family thrives with rehabilitation, livelihood assistance
At the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya, Humanity & Inclusion operates a number of inclusive projects to assist people with disabilities. One family demonstrates the importance of this holistic approach to humanitarian aid.
When Armele’s mother led her and her seven siblings to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they did not know where to go. The family sought refuge in Kenya, ending up at Kakuma Refugee Camp and eventually the more permanent Kalobeyei settlement.
The family settled in, accessing vital services like food and housing. But two of Armele’s sisters, Lydia and Jolie, required additional assistance. Lydia, 10, lives with paralysis caused by hydrocephalus–a buildup of fluid on the brain that, if left untreated, can cause permanent physical and cognitive disabilities. Jolie, 6, was born with cerebral palsy, creating difficulties for her to walk and speak.
“When we came here, we looked for somewhere to get help,” Armele says. “We were told to visit Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center. We took Lydia and Jolie there and started doing exercises four days a week.”
Getting to the therapy sessions was challenging. The nearest rehabilitation center is in the next village–a 45-minute trek through the desert. Unable to walk, Lydia and Jolie relied on their mother and siblings to carry them to and from their appointments. Occasionally, they were able to arrange to be dropped off by motorbike–the most common mode of transportation in the camp.
With funding from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Humanity & Inclusion provides the only rehabilitation services in Kakuma.
Therapy at home
As the sisters began to show improvement, Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists were able to shift the rehabilitation sessions to the family’s home. Physical therapists and community rehabilitation workers living in the settlement, who Humanity & Inclusion has trained in rehabilitation techniques, visit them two to three times a week, massaging their muscles and leading them through functional exercises. The girls’ caregivers have also learned how to continue their treatment at home.
“Jolie has come so far,” Armele explains. “She depended on a caregiver for everything until she started the therapy program. Now she can talk, move and go to school.”
Jolie received a walker to help her cover long distances, and specialists are still working to help improve her balance. Able to walk on her own, Jolie is now enrolled in school.
“I like to run and sing,” she says.
Lydia’s disability is more severe, but the family has seen improvements in her movement and mood. She lights up when Armele lifts her into her special wheelchair, which supports her posture and makes it easier for her to leave the confines of home.
In addition to rehabilitation and education assistance, Humanity & Inclusion has helped the girls’ mother establish a business to care for her family. With support from Mastercard Foundation, she received a microgrant to fund inventory for her clothing store in the village. She is able to generate income to better care for her eight children, while the older siblings take care of Lydia and Jolie. With her earnings, she purchased a mattress for the children to sleep more comfortably.
“Humanity & Inclusion supports us a lot, especially my mom,” Armele says. “Since we came here as refugees, we didn’t know where to start from. Humanity & inclusion has given our mom an opportunity to take care of us children. We learn from her. She takes care of all of us.”
The family also receives mental health and psychosocial support, joining other community members in a support system for caregivers of people with disabilities. With a referral to UNHCR from Humanity & Inclusion, the family also had a special coating applied to the metal roof of their home to provide better insulation and cooler temperatures for the family members who stay there throughout the hottest part of the day.
“We are one family,” Armele says. “With Humanity & Inclusion, we are one family.”
Kenya | Thwol finds sense of belonging through rehabilitation, psychosocial support
Thwol, 60, had her leg amputated several years ago following complications from diabetes. At the Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya, Humanity & Inclusion offers her rehabilitation, an artificial limb and psychosocial support.
Thwol sits on a quilt, shaded by a tarp at the back of her home made of natural materials at Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya. A large piece of fabric is draped over her lap, with colorful and intricate patterns of beads that she’s added one by one. She counts each line, picking up the correct bead from the small tin beside her, threading it with a needle and placing it meticulously. Chickens, provided to her family by the World Food Program, peck the ground around her.
The beading is something she brought with her from Ethiopia, her home country that she left more than 10 years ago. Beading is “my culture,” she explains, simply.
Beading keeps Thwol busy. The repetition and creativity are therapeutic. The craft has given her a way to connect with her neighbors and generate income. Beading, along with rehabilitation and psychosocial support from Humanity & Inclusion, helped bring Thwol out of a dark place where she found herself after complications from diabetes required doctors to amputate her leg.
Providing artificial limbs
Thwol was living in Dadaab refugee camp in the eastern part of Kenya, when she began to notice peeling and swelling of her right foot. Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists referred her to a hospital, where her leg was amputated below the knee. She was fitted with crutches and an artificial limb.
When Thwol was moved from Dadaab to Kakuma, another refugee camp in northwestern Kenya, Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists working at both camps communicated to ensure she received follow-up care. By the time Thwol arrived at Kakuma, her crutches were in need of repair and she needed a new artificial limb. Humanity & Inclusion’s team equipped her with new crutches right away, and she was added to the list of people awaiting prosthetics-fitting.
“Humanity & Inclusion is the only organization providing prostheses at the camp,” says Andrew Mwangi, Humanity & Inclusion’s prosthetics and orthotics officer. “The funding is never enough for the need."
Humanity & Inclusion can guarantee new artificial limbs for about 25 people living in Kakuma every year. The process from the time a need is identified to when a person begins walking with their new leg can be long.
"We give people crutches first for walking as we strengthen their muscles of the affected limb, then we do stump-shaping and desensitization before booking them for fitting and gait training,” Mwangi adds.
Children need new artificial limbs every six months or so as they grow, though adults can typically get by with repairs in between necessary replacements.
For Thwol, her artificial leg has given her a sense of independence.
“Before, I could not move from one place to another,” she says. “Now, I can go places, to the market, to church.”
Sense of community
Humanity & Inclusion’s psychosocial support team also works with Thwol, helping her to cope with her disability. Through counseling, Thwol came to realize the importance of channeling her energy into something productive like her beadwork.
“She can use her hands to make beading,” explains Wilkister Nyamweya, Humanity & Inclusion’s psychosocial support officer. “She meets with other women—with and without disabilities—to teach them this craft. It’s given her a sense of belonging and satisfaction.”
Thwol pulls herself across the quilt in her backyard, lifting herself into a chair and strapping into her artificial leg.
“My life has changed,” she says. “With all of the help from Humanity & Inclusion, I have a life now. I’m still alive.”
These activities are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Kenya | Head teacher takes pride in promoting inclusion at 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.”
Kenya | Corrective surgery, rehabilitation opens doors for Jonathan
Jonathan, 7, lives with cerebral palsy. Through corrective surgery and follow-up rehabilitation services from Humanity & Inclusion, he is able to walk on his own.
Refugees from South Sudan, Jonathan lives with his mother, Angelina, in Nairobi. Since receiving surgery, Jonathan is also attending school for the first time.
At the suggestion of a Humanity & Inclusion physical therapist, Angelina took Jonathan to see an orthopedic specialist. He received corrective surgery to straighten his legs and make it possible for him to walk. After the operation, Jonathan received a walker, which he rarely needs now unless he walks long distances.
It’s been one year since Jonathan’s surgery. Since the operation, Humanity & Inclusion’s team has been providing at-home rehabilitation care to help Jonathan become more independent. Through rehabilitation sessions, he has strengthened his muscles and improved his balance.
“They help me climb stairs and play with a ball,” Jonathan explains.
Opportunity to learn
Jonathan’s face lights up when Faith Njiru, inclusive rehabilitation field officer for Humanity & Inclusion, visits his family’s home on a cool day in July. They bump fists and he giggles as Faith poses questions about school and his teachers. He answers confidently in English, a language he is just beginning to learn. When Faith asks who Jonathan’s best friend is, he jabs his finger in her direction without hesitation.
“After his surgery, we encouraged his mother to enroll him. Now that he can walk, he’s in school for the first time,” Faith explains.
Jonathan attends classes at a school where the restrooms and playground are accessible for children with limited mobility. Angelina has noticed a number of positive changes in her son.
“He loves reading, eating and playing on the slide at school,” she says.
As for Jonathan, he has big dreams for the future: “I want to be a pilot, so I can fly!”
These activities are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
Kenya | In Kakuma refugee camp, HI promotes autonomy for all
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!
Kenya | Helping people with disabilities access braces and mobility aids
Andrew Mwangi is a Prosthetics and Orthotics Officer at Humanity & Inclusion in Kenya. In the Kakuma refugee camp and the Kalobeyei settlement, he helps people with disabilities access artificial limbs.
When Andrew was younger, he saw someone wearing an artificial limb for the first time.
“I was captivated,” he recalls. “I wanted to know how it was made.”
He turned his fascination into a career, learning how to fabricate and fit artificial limbs, braces and other assistance devices. In December 2021, he joined Humanity & Inclusion to work with refugees and host communities in Kakuma.
“I had not done humanitarian work before, but I was interested in working in that context,” he explains.
Daily life in the field
Andrew is one of 36 full-time Kenyan staff who live at Humanity & Inclusion’s compound near the refugee camp. Staff rotate through 8-week cycles at Kakuma, with 2-week breaks to visit home and decompress, before returning for another two months.
Andrew is the only full-time prosthetics and orthotics officer working at the camp, which has a population of more than 240,000 people. He spends each day of the week visiting one of Humanity & Inclusion’s three rehabilitation centers that are spread throughout the refugee camp, as well as its facility in the nearby Kalobeyei settlement.
“The demand for our services is quite high,” Andrew explains. “I’m covering the four camps and host community. In a given week, I will only visit each place once.”
Andrew does have the support of six technical aid workers—refugees who have been trained in basic fabrication and repair of mobility devices—who staff the workshop at each rehabilitation center. Each workshop includes a cabinet stocked with basic tools and supplies. Crutches of all sizes line the walls. Walkers, wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, toilet seats, wooden scooters and other mobility devices can also be found.
Journey to fitting
Once someone in need of an artificial limb is identified and assessed—either at the reception center or by staff in the community, the person’s amputated limb is routinely measured and shaped, to ensure proper fitting. The individual also participates in rehabilitation sessions to strengthen their muscles, and learns how to care for their stump and mobility device. Once a person receives their artificial limb, they complete training so they can walk, balance, climb stairs and complete other movements.
Andrew and his team see people who have required amputations for a number of reasons: gunshot wounds, explosions, snake bites, road traffic accidents, diabetes.
The waiting list for artificial limbs and braces is long, and funding is limited. In an average year, Andrew explains that Humanity & Inclusion's program at Kakuma has the budget to provide new artificial limbs for 20 to 25 people, and orthotics—such as special shoes or leg braces—for around 85 people. The waiting process can take more than a year because artificial limbs must travel over 125 miles to reach people who are being fitted with them.
Gatkuoth, 17, pictured with Andrew in the lead image, is on the waiting list for an artificial limb.
The boy’s leg was recently amputated after he sustained a gunshot wound in September 2021. Initially identified at the reception center when he arrived in Kakuma from South Sudan, Gatkuoth is undergoing three months of stump-shaping. Andrew and his team measure the circumference at different points along Gatkuoth’s residual stump, taking note of changes over time.
“Once it stabilizes, we will know it won’t shrink any further, and then he can be fitted,” Andrew explains, showing Gatkuoth how to wrap a bandage around his leg. Andrew undoes the bandage so Gatkuoth can give it a try himself. Gatkuoth is expected to receive his artificial limb in September 2022.
Provision of artificial limbs, braces and other assistive devices is based on a selection with emphasis on disability, gender and age.
“If fitting someone with an artificial limb will help them enroll in school, we will make them a priority,” Andrew explains.
These actions are supported by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
World Refugee Day | Rashid walks with ease after surgery, physical therapy in Kenya
June 20 is World Refugee Day. Humanity & Inclusion supports tens of thousands of refugees each year, like Rashid who lives in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
When Rashid was a baby, he and his family fled violent fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018. Rashid, now 4, was just a toddler when his mother, Julienne, quickly realized that he had difficulty walking.
“He didn't walk like the other children,” she says. “I couldn’t explain where this comes from because nobody in the family has the same problem."
At the refugee camp, Rashid experienced isolation from other children who didn’t understand his disability. He wasn’t able to play with them.
"The other children rejected him and made fun of him,” Julienne explains.
Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation team at Kakuma camp diagnosed Rashid with a deformity affecting his knee. In September 2021, the boy underwent corrective surgery on his legs at the Kakuma Mission Hospital, which works in collaboration with Humanity & Inclusion. Once his casts were removed, Rashid was able to walk without any difficulty. He’s continuing rehabilitation exercises to strengthen his muscles and improve his mobility.
Julienne is thrilled to see her son’s improved functioning. Rashid has returned to school, where he has made many friends. He is very popular with his teachers, who find him friendly and energetic.
"I'm very happy to stand up without the other kids making fun of me,” Rashid says.
Humanity & Inclusion at Kakuma
Located in northwestern Kenya, Kakuma refugee camp was established in 1992. It hosts over 200,000 refugees from 13 different countries. Over 40% of the refugees are South Sudanese and over 30% are Somalis.
Humanity & Inclusion assists over 15,000 people in Kakuma camp. The organization provides rehabilitation, mental health and psychosocial support. It also runs a child protection program. These actions are funded by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
Leadership | Two HI staff graduate from Hilton Leadership Institute
Humanity & Inclusion's Racheal Njiru and Kazem Hemeda were among 53 Hilton Prize Scholars selected for the 2021 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate Virtual Leadership Institute, in partnership with Atlas Corps. The virtual leadership training opportunity provides professional development to emerging social change leaders exclusively within the Prize Laureate community.
Racheal has worked for two years as a Disability Inclusive Project Manager at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Kazem has worked for Humanity & Inclusion since 2015 and is currently the Deputy Country Manager for Egypt.
Q: Can you tell us more about the Hilton Leadership Institute?
Racheal: It was an 8-month leadership training that involved doing assignments online, meeting online with other scholars weekly and we also had peer coaching calls. Of course, I still had to continue with my job. It was very demanding, so I had to organize my time very well and prioritize tasks.
I was very humbled to represent Humanity & Inclusion in the program. There were just the two of us, Kazem and I. With every scholar I managed to talk to, I made sure I talked about Humanity & Inclusion, what we do globally and in Kenya. So, it was an opportunity to showcase Humanity & Inclusion, and I actually found quite a lot of them were aware of our organization.
I want to express my gratitude to the Hilton Leadership Institute and Atlas Corps. I am privileged to have been part of the Institute’s program. It was very, very inspiring. I hope there will be more opportunities for other Humanity & Inclusion colleagues to equally participate in this kind of programs.
Kazem: I felt thrilled for the experience, and proud to be representing Humanity & Inclusion at this prestigious program. Throughout the 8-month long program, I learned about the missions of other international humanitarian organizations, and I was delighted to engage in conversations with other program colleagues about including persons with disabilities in their respective interventions. I also learned from their innovations and developed a better understanding about the different contexts, challenges and opportunities in different parts of the world. Having this global perspective, I became more interested in learning about Humanity & Inclusion's global work.
Q: Tell us about your capstone project.
Rachael: My project was on facilitating the inclusion of persons with disabilities in socioeconomic development in Kakuma refugee camp and the hosting community. I've been working with persons with disabilities who are in business and I've seen quite a number of barriers. I wanted to look at how systemic change could bring some support to refugees with disabilities in the camp: to identify them and their needs, and target them for certain services that can improve their lives. I did not finish everything in my leadership project, but in my current job the project continues.
Kazem: I will develop a simulation game that will deepen the understanding and commitment of Humanity & Inclusion’s Egypt team to intersectionality and our Disability, Gender, Age institutional policy with funding that I received through a $2,000 "community impact grant" from the program.
Q: What are the key lessons that you have learned and that you can apply in your everyday work?
Racheal: The most important thing that I have learned is that sometimes, as leaders, we are under too much pressure. We have to do our work, ensure that our teams are delivering, both according to our organization’s mandate as well as donor expectations. But we forget about developing ourselves as leaders. I plan to be more aware of myself, to try and develop myself, become better and see how I can develop my team and others.
It's very interesting to actually know that there's so many other people who are doing humanitarian acts across the globe, to know that I'm not the only humanitarian worker who is working very hard to ensure that we are able to support persons with disabilities or marginalized people to have a better livelihood.
In addition to that, I was able to understand in very simple terms the aspect of intersectionality: to identify and recognize that the population we work with face many complex issues that make them even more vulnerable than others.
Kazem: Some of the key things I learned include tactics for leading successful movements, the applications for the concept of intersectionality, as well as a lot of personal development notions and practices such as self-compassion, conflict management styles, strategies for personal resilience, and strategies for remote working.I will exercise the leadership skills I learned through my day-to-day work. I became more self-aware, more capable of addressing conflicts, offering coaching, and more able to deal with stress.
Second, I am implementing a "leadership project" that aims to promote intersectionality among Humanity & Inclusion's operations in Egypt.
Q: Why is inclusion so important?
Racheal: One thing that I always say is that inclusion is not just a Humanity & Inclusion issue. When people or partners want to construct accessible buildings they always think of approaching HI. Inclusion is more than construction of accessible buildings it should be embraced using the twin track approach and partners should be in inclusion in the entire project cycle duration. Humanity & Inclusion will always offer the technical support and expertise to our partners whenever they need it. So, I think if people look at it that way, then we can be able to move forward in the journey of inclusion.
Kazem: Inclusion is a value that humanity needs to thrive in today's world of complex problems. Inclusion means that everybody, including vulnerable populations, have a fair chance to live in dignity, realize their potential and contribute to an equitable and sustainable development.
Q: What motivates you and your work?
Racheal: I love community work. I felt in my heart before joining campus that I wanted to serve humanity and I wanted to be empowered with knowledge on how to do that. What motivates me in my work, is when I am able to see a positive change in someone’s life since I started interacting with them.
Kazem: Despite the challenges we face every day, I motivate myself by remembering that we, as an organization, promote the values of humanity and inclusion, and that we can contribute to making the lives of marginalized and vulnerable people better and happier. This is, indeed, a meaningful mission.
Q: Is there a certain moment or person that stands out in your time at Humanity & Inclusion?
Racheal: In March 2020, when Covid-19 hit, I personally felt very discouraged. I was afraid that all of the effort invested into the project I had been implementing was going to go down the drain. Most of our project participants experienced their businesses being affected by COVID. We got a request from our donor—UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)—to develop a concept on the recovery of the businesses that had been affected by COVID-19 and how to cushion them from the effects of the pandemic for six months. With that funding, we were able to support project participants to be able to absorb the economic shock and survive during Covid-19.
One project participant really impressed me: A lady who has a contract to supply charcoal each month to an organization. She was able to save money and constructed rental houses. She made me look at life in a very different way. She did not get discouraged because of Covid-19 pandemic instead, she looked at how was she would be able to support herself then and in the future. Thanks to the business grant we provided to her and the business development trainings that she received, she was able to save money and get herself another income stream.
Kazem: One of the memorable moments was the closing ceremony of the IDMAG—Idmag is Arabic for “inclusion”—project, which I had the honor to manage for five years. The project aimed to improve youth with disabilities' access to livelihood opportunities and social services. I felt very happy to listen to the positive speech delivered by the Minister of Social Solidarity at the event. The speech gave me hope that the impact of IDMAG project was not limited to the local communities it served, but rather, it would extend nationally.
Q: Why is it important for people to support Humanity & Inclusion's work and the communities we serve?
Racheal: We serve a very unique population of persons with disabilities and vulnerable populations, and we are in the business of ensuring that their lives are improved. We promote their dignity in our different projects. We are very keen on matters regarding inclusion. We want to see persons with disabilities taking different positions in leadership and bringing change. We also ensure that we support more partners to be more inclusive and to understand and apply intentional inclusion in their programming.
The communities we serve are happy that Humanity & Inclusion is providing different services. Right now, in Kakuma, we have rehabilitation, inclusive education and livelihood projects. What is Humanity & Inclusion trying to do? We're trying to promote independence for everyone. Because you would wish that persons with disabilities are able to be empowered economically, empowered in education and also are able to be functionally independent. It’s this holistic approach that we want to look at, and we hope that we'll keep getting the support from our donors to be able to continue doing this noble task.
Kazem: In my opinion, Humanity & Inclusion is a unique organization that capitalizes in its enormous technical expertise and talented team to empower persons with disabilities and vulnerable groups to assert their rights. At the same time, Humanity & Inclusion supports a multitude of stakeholders, including service providers and governments, to become inclusive and responsive to the needs and priorities of vulnerable groups. This twin-track approach has proven effective as it leaves the served communities with increased capability ownership for their own development.