Born with a disability, Sam, 17, faced many challenges including abandonment from his family, despair, and was viewed as a curse. Luckily, with our support, he was provided with psychosocial support, guidance and counselling, medical support and a walking aid, as well as scholastic materials. He was able to study and pass his secondary school examination. He is now informed and more confident to speak up on the rights of children with disabilities.
17 year old Sam lives with his mother in a semi-permanent house made of bricks and iron sheets, and has a rough floor. They fetch water from a borehole that is more than 3 kilometres away from their home. His mother is the sole breadwinner in the family. She depends on small-scale agriculture and casual labour to provide for herself and her son.
There is no disability-friendly sanitation facility and the home ground is not paved making it unconducive for Sam causing him to fall on rough ground several times.
Sam was born with a physical disability that saw him unable to use his legs and his hands were weak too. His father sent him and his mother away after discovering that he was born with a disability. Their community members also abandoned them, since they also viewed disability as a ‘curse’. This situation deeply affected Sam and his mother. Fortunately, through the support from good samaritans, church leaders and the Daughters of Charity, they were able to move from Itiryo to Masanga, where he enrolled in primary school in 2012. Since Sam could not walk, his mother always took him to school through primary and secondary schools, and also to vocational training where he now attends. Although his hands were weak, Sam could draw and write but at a slow pace.
Due to the economic situation, Sam´s mother was not able to provide him with a balanced diet. His disability made him vulnerable to exploitation since his father and his relatives viewed him as a curse and completely abandoned him since birth. Growing up, he felt lonely as the community and some children at school harassed and humiliated him believing that he is incapable of doing anything. However, this did not deter him from his studies.
“Before I started school, I viewed myself in a negative way and always thought that I could not do anything. After the priests and the sisters enrolled me in school, I began seeing myself in a different way and I believed that disability is not inability,” he said.
Sam was identified by a church priest and was assisted to get to Masanga village. Later, Daughters of Charity who worked with ATFGM Masanga provided him with psychosocial support, guidance and counselling, medical support as well as scholastic materials. He was also given a walking aid to enable his mobility, and he also received training on the rights of children with disabilities. Sam completed his secondary education in December 2022 and graduated with Division three, a grade that meets the minimum qualification for an admission to form five. He is however, hesitant to join form five because he fears that the learning environment will not be disability-friendly just like it was during his secondary and primary schools. Additionally, he was enrolled into a vocational training centre in 2023 where he is studying computer courses. His mother was given financial support and she was able to build their house and also meet other family needs.
Sam has been receiving continuous counselling and psychological support from the social workers. He continues to hope and await to further his studies as he passed his secondary school examination in 2022 and managed to attain division three.
On a typical day, Sam wakes up at 6 am every Monday to Friday to attend his computer classes at the vocational training centre, about 250 metres from his home. However, he is not able to attend school regularly and some days he misses school because of rain or tiredness from walking as his legs and hands become very weak very quickly. He believes that studying the computer course will help him in life since he cannot write for a long time as his hands get tired quickly. However, he is able to draw and enjoys it.
I am now more confident and able to say ´no to violation of the rights of children with disabilities´. I can read and write in both Swahili and English. I am also able to interact well with my fellow children with disabilities during training on the rights of children with disabilities.
“After attending training and empowerment sessions in Tarime, I saw that people with disabilities could also study and be in great leadership positions of influence. Since then, I have been motivated to work hard to achieve my ambition of becoming a social welfare officer. I feel encouraged because all the steps I make pave the way towards my dream,” he says with optimism. Sam has completed his secondary school education, and desires to further his education.
“I am very thankful to the donors and the church for the provision of a wheelchair and shoes, and medical and educational support. Your support made me feel alive again in this world, and to enjoy the right of movement and humanity like any other person,” he says joyfully.
He enjoys drawing, attending church and listening to gospel music.
“I am hoping to be a good adviser to my fellow children living with disability to work hard to attain at least secondary education. My dream is to become a social worker so that I can be closer to children with disabilities. I want to help them.”Sam concluded.