MUSOMA, Tanzania (CNN) -- Lizzie Cameron is in Musoma, Tanzania working with the Musoma Engineering Project.
"She slept in a separate house from the rest of the family... There was no toilet or bathroom. The house had no door, the entrance just covered with a mat."
The Musoma Engineering Project is the only charity of its kind in the region and aims to provide teaching and support for local disabled children and teenagers.
With the project Lizzie will be helping the teachers teach skills like woodworking, leatherwork and dressmaking. Follow her experiences in her blogs and video diaries.
November 7, 2007
The ME (Musoma Engineering) Project has a community outreach training and rehabilitation program, which is a really important aspect of the organization, as the highest percentage of those with disabilities live in the rural areas of Mara (region) and cannot travel or afford to lodge in Musoma.
The program varies depending on the child's needs and ability; some are partnered with a local workshop and take up an apprenticeship. Others, who are less able - because they are restricted by immobility or lack the confidence (such as Peter) - are trained at home and given a start-up kit.
But it is not enough just to visit the child once at home, teach them a skill, provide them with some tools and leave them to it. A thorough follow-up of their progress is really vital to make sure that they are developing and really benefiting from the program.
Dennis has been really keen for me to go with him to the homes of these students, not only to see how they are progressing but for me to witness firsthand how they live and to really appreciate the hardships that they have to deal with on a daily basis.
Yesterday we went to visit a girl named Kadogo. Kadogo was born a twin and both were mentally and physically disabled. Unfortunately, due to malaria, her twin passed away last year.
Dennis was telling me that her twin was buried far away from her family home, as it is a custom of the Luo community that if a woman dies before she is married, she should not be buried within the home ground as that would bring about a curse to the family. To prevent such a curse, it is the culture of this community to hire a man to marry the deceased woman before she is buried so that he can bury her as his wife.
When Dennis previously visited Kadogo he was disturbed by her living conditions. She slept in a separate house from the rest of the family. Kadogo is totally immobile and no one was close by if she needed any assistance. The room had just a mat as her bedding and nothing else. There was no toilet or bathroom. The house had no door, the entrance just covered with a mat. The house used to keep the goats had a stronger door fixed to it and was closer to the family home.
Obviously it is disturbing that someone should have to live in such conditions, but I don't think her parents realized that they were doing anything wrong. It is just their custom and local tradition. People in this community would rather obey the local customs even it means depriving someone of their basic human rights.
After Dennis visited the home several times, and made complaints to the parents about the way she was being mistreated, they agreed to collaborate and discuss ways to improve her situation. She was given a wheelchair to enable her to be mobile and taught her how to produce simple hats by knitting reed leafs. These hats are popular and sell well in the local market.
On visiting Kadogo this time round, Dennis was really pleased with the change in Kadogo's health and general well being. Her living conditions had improved and she was now socializing with the family. E-mail to a friend