Supporting disabled children and their parents in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Dowa, Malawi.

Malawi is a resource-poor landlocked country in Southeast Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world. Nevertheless, it hosts about 40,000 refugees. 31,000 of them are living in the Dzaleka camp (mid-2017). Most of them have fled from violence in Rwanda, Burundi or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some have already spend their whole life in this camp. The camp was founded in 1994. Previously, Malawi was a dictatorship and the camp was a prison for political prisoners. The inhabitants are not allowed to work outside the camp and the children are not allowed to attend public schools. Refugees in Malawi receive minimal international attention and support. Such a difficult situation, as always, affects the children most severely. And of course it is especially difficult for handicapped children.

In 2009 a handicapped man and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) which is active in the camp, together founded the Respite Care Center (RCC), a center to provide space and support for the needs of people with disabilities.

In 2015, parents of children with disabilities in the refugee camp founded the Community Based Organization "Parents Association of Children with Disability" (PACD), which already had 146 members by mid-2017.

Currently they support 260 children. Most children have mental disorders or are mentally impaired, several of them probably due to severe trauma. Less children have purely physical disabilities.

Parents of PACD gather groups of about 20-25 children with similar problems each day in order to play with them and teach them basic skills in reading, writing and arithmetic. By that every child can visit the center 1-2 times a week.

Only a few volunteers in the PACD have sufficient skills to professionally provide care, support and basic education to children with different disabilities. Most inhabitants of the camp, but also some of the parents, are not aware yet how much children can learn and achieve despite their disabilities.

This impressive self-organization and self-help by those affected in an extremely difficult situation has so far mostly been supported by individual donations from well-wishers.

Now, with funded by the Tereska Foundation and in close cooperation with all volunteers, Welthungerhilfe supports the center and the parents' initiative over a period of two years to further improve the self-help capacity, independence and self-efficacy of children with disabilities and their parents.

First of all, the rooms are made handicapped accessible (installation of disabled toilets, widening of the doors to make the rooms wheelchair accessible, widening of windows to allow more daylight to enter).

Secondly, together with the parents, curricula are developed that are adapted to the children's potential and appropriate training material will be provided.

And thirdly, the parents' initiative will be supported with theoretical and practical training, e.g. in fundraising, financial matters, representation of their interests and about inclusion concepts in order to be able to act more efficiently and independently for their interests.

The Tereska Foundation hopes to be able to significantly and permanently improve the situation of these especially disadvantaged children, in a place where life is already very difficult anyway.

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