Tuesday, 8 October 2013

From the Office to the Field

After what seemed like a very lengthy research and planning stage, we were all excited to finally leave the office and put all our hard work into action!

I did my first interview with a gentleman who was blind. I was concerned that we would have trouble communicating in case he only spoke Dagbani, but he spoke good English and so we didn’t have any problems. The gentleman told me that he was blind as a result of a severe case of measles he’d had as a child. It is bad enough for someone to lose the ability of sight, but especially so when it was most likely preventable. In the UK we have vaccination programmes in place so that everybody (unless there are personal contraindications) has the opportunity to prevent diseases like measles. If somebody does acquire the disease then it is usually treatable and loss of sight would only occur in extreme cases. Coming from a medical background, I found it difficult to hear that so many people have become blind through a largely preventable disease. However, it is not just the person who is blind that is affected. It is common for children who have a family member with a disability to become the carer for that parent or family member.  Although the children we spoke to seemed relatively happy in themselves, there is still a wider concern about the effect that supporting parents has on their education.

Often, such children are enrolled in and do attend school. However, because they have to take their parents to the market (so that they can make a day’s living) and pick them back up again, the children arrive late to school and have to leave early. This means that they miss out on school time and extracurricular activities and are ultimately disadvantaged compared to their peers. Falling behind in school also poses additional problems in continuing education in later years.

One of the stories I heard was from a homeless mother of 5 who had a son with cerebral palsy. He couldn’t walk, was confined to his wheelchair and had fairly severe learning difficulties.

His mother was upset because she couldn’t leave her son on his own as people in the past had tried to poison him. After explaining to her about the resource centre and what happens there, we were all pleased to see the two of them the following day at the opening ceremony, where there was a distribution of clothes to the people with disabilities in attendance.

All of our team have had emotional ups and downs and have had to adapt to a very new and often very challenging environment. We’ve learnt lots about the culture here in Tamale and are excited to continue learning and discovering new things in the weeks to come.


By Lindsey


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