Posted on June 10, 2016
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… How one gift has transformed the life of one small child
Fred Phillipo is tall and strongly built. A big 14 year old, he fits the image of a budding rugby fly half or perhaps a football centre back. But Fred struggles to stay standing on his feet. His knees cross over each other, making walking an arduous task. Fred is a paraplegic. It’s an effort for him to walk the two kilometres to school. It takes up to an hour, sometimes more when it’s raining then he has to take the same stressful journey back home. So often he misses classes or just does not bother to go to school. Fred is bright, but his disability is a hindrance. Because of this he is still in primary school, several classes behind kids of a similar age. Fred lives with his mother in Kagoma village, which is in Chato district, Kagera region, Tanzania. He is the youngest of four brothers. Their father died in 2011. Although in social terms he is a child of a single mother, in Tanzania he is considered as an orphan because his widowed mother is very poor, uneducated, unemployed, cannot afford to send her children to school and depends on the goodwill of neighbours in the village to survive. Fred’s disability has added even more stress to his mother, having to take him to the clinic and sometime to the general hospital in Biharamulo about 50 kilometres away.
The 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report noted a strong link between disability and marginalisation. Although there have been overall increases in school participation over the past decade, children with disabilities continue to be left behind. In Africa alone fewer than 10 percent of disabled children are in school. It is estimated that 7.8 percent of the Tanzania population have a disability, only 0.5 percent receive primary school education and 0.2 percent go to secondary school (UNICEF 2012). The challenge for disabled people in developing countries is often related to the lack of government investment in infrastructure, training and education that is necessary to enable their inclusion.
Making a real difference
Dave and Della are a couple in England who are child sponsors through ACT and are supporting Fred. Their regular monthly donation of £15 is used to support Fred’s education, including all school materials like school uniforms, shoes, school bag, sweaters, exercise books, pens and pencils and “school contributions”, a term for tuition supplement as primary school education is supposed to be free. This £15 goes a long way and some is used to pay for Community Health Insurance Fund (CHF), which guarantees access to health care and prescriptions. In addition, each child is given one goat or pig for income generation. Having found out from regular communications with sponsors and through our website that an ACT team was traveling to Kagera, they wanted to send a gift to Fred.
The gift of freedom
Fred was among the 50 children and adults who welcomed us to Kagoma village on our recent trip to
Tanzania. Little did he know that a Wednesday in April was going to be a special day for him.
After the welcome speeches by village leaders, care team and volunteers, I talked about ACT and the reasons why we believe it is important we work with the community to show love for the orphans and widows and link them to child sponsors in the UK who care and support those who are in need.
I told them I had a letter and gift for one child from his sponsors in the UK and delivered a bag to Fred. In it he found a letter, an original West Ham FC jersey and a windable torch for reading at night. They don’t have electricity in the village. Then the other kids looked in amazement as quietly two older children wheeled in a special needs trike behind him. With the trike he is now able to get to school in 5 minutes. Fred’s sponsor, Dave and Della had given £300 for the trike to enable Fred to travel to school more quickly, but Fred had not been told. It is difficult to describe the emotions I saw on Fred’s face. But this gift has
transformed his life, he can visit friends and run errands for his mother like any other child and all because Dave and Della cared enough.
After receiving the report of the trip to Kagera, Dave and Della wrote, “Seeing the photo of Fred on the trike
brought us so much joy”.
ACT started working in Tanzania in 2003 and we are present in Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Kagera regions. Read more about ACT’s work in Tanzania.