Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Importance of Raising Awareness- Matt

Hi, I’m Matt and I’m one of the 3 UK Volunteers working at L’Arche Nongr-Maasem.

Every week, we designate office time to Awareness Raising, and it lies parallel with Fund Seeking in importance. Of course, it’s great when the project is given funding, but Awareness Raising helps to get people from different backgrounds to support, whether financially or in less tangible ways those living with intellectual disabilities.

In Burkina Faso, many people believe that people with disabilities don’t have the same rights as those without disabilities. Such attitudes create exclusivity in communities where people with disabilities become marginalised. Unfortunately, people with intellectual disabilities are unable to express their views, and so rely on others to make sure they are not forgotten about and are represented in society.

For this reason, we’ve recently started creating a database of contact details of local secondary schools in the hope that before we leave in mid-December, we can plan and lead an awareness-raising session to teach students about the difficulties faced by those living with intellectual disabilities. We hope that by playing a game which identifies similarities between the school students and the centre users at L’Arche, we can show that despite certain differences, there are also many similarities, and that essentially we are all the same and that the self-worth of all must be recognised.

Alongside national awareness-raising projects in Burkina, we are also focusing on international awareness-raising. Although people in the UK are generally more accepting of those with disabilities, it is easy to ignore the problems people with intellectual disabilities often face in the developing world. With any luck this week my local paper, the Manchester Evening News, will publish an article outlining the important work being achieved by our project in Burkina Faso. This article will not only help people to understand the work we are doing, but will also offer contact details and the opportunity to donate to the project. Furthermore it will act as publicity for other young people who are interested in getting involved in developmental projects.

Work in Éveil has been used to create a video.
The third and final way that we are raising awareness is within the centre itself. The staff at L’Arche Nongr-Maasem are brilliant and caring people. Without their understanding of the work we do at Arche we would be inhibiting them. We hope to ensure that after International Service stop working with L’Arche, the centre will be able to continue the work we’ve initiated. For this reason, in collaboration with the Physiotherapist, I’ve created a video which shows our work in the Éveil (early education) section, and it shows some of the developments achieved by the users since we began our project. For some, this is developing their motor abilities and allowing them to use muscles which would otherwise be redundant. For others, this is teaching them to follow instructions and respond to commands. The video will be used as an educational resource to teach the staff at L’Arche the ways in which their care programs can be tailored to the individual needs of the centre users in order to maximise their personal development.

Hopefully, over the next few weeks (our last few in Burkina!) we’ll begin to see the difference that awareness-raising can make!

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