When Marie Omare, a nutritionist was volunteering at the Special Olympics Kenya, she watched as people with disability struggled to gain access to quality care and walking aids.
This prompted her to set up Kibra Slum Action Foundation offer essential services to special need children, girls and women in their programme. Their new project known as Recycle to Transform enables them to further aid the special need persons. Through the use of Appropriate Paper based Technology commonly known as APT, they have been able to reuse cardboards to create comfortable devices as chairs to be used by special needs children enrolled in their foundation.
Over 1 billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. This corresponds to about 15 per cent of the world’s population, with up to 190 million (3.8 per cent ) people aged 15 years and older having significant difficulties in functioning, often requiring healthcare services, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
“The experience while working with parents having children with disability and those with intellectual disability got me to understand the realities of their lives and challenges in accessing quality care. There were a lot of gaps identifiable including lack of qualified personnel, lack of parental involvement, access to artistic devices like wheelchair and standing aid among others,” said Omare, the founder and director of the organization.
The organization initially started out with reaching out to children with disabilities in schools in Nairobi, including those in Kibera and Mathare slums, through physiotherapy, giving nutrition meals and health talks to the community. And as the number of those accessing those services grew it went on to building their foundation in 2017 through local fundraising.
The Foundation focuses on four pillars as Wanjiru Mbugua the programe coordinator explains “The three pillars which the foundations runs on include Somesha, Tunza and Ibuka she said. Tunza which is the anchor programme serves to promote the health and wellbeing of special need children. The free physiotherapy and medical services offered in the foundation as well as Recyle to Transform runs through Tunza ,”she said.
Somesha, which is the next pillar is keen on promoting inclusive education for the children. The foundation works with different schools to enable special need children have access to education. The last pillar, which is Ibuka focuses on promoting the dignity of women and Children. Through this pillar the foundation sensitizes the women and girls about their rights and also on issues Gender Based Violence and also on leadership .
Their new found project which is Recycle To transform will not only serve to provide standing aid and sitting aid to the children but also would serve as an income generating activity for the parents and guardians of the children .
But how does one reuse cardboards to make seats?
To oversee the making of the chairs is Kevin Kimani and other volunteers at the hub working full time and others part time in the workshop.
“Each chair made is according to each child’s needs. During therapy session the doctor will identify a child with the most urgent need for the device and outline how the modification of the chair should be made,” said Kevin. After the report is made the process of making the device begins with Kevin making measurements of the child and coming up with a design.
“Different children have different needs so in order to start making any device I need to get the specifications from the doctor to at least come up with the best design for the device of that specific child,” he said. After that my work now is to start the production using corrugated cardboard,” he adds. He uses corrugated card board due to its durability as compared to other form of card board. A mixture of wheat flour and warm water would serve as glue to compile the cardboards together and get the desired thickness before starting the cutouts. “Wheat flour is cheap and also not a health hazard as compared to the actual glue. The cardboards are compiled to at least be durable and somehow resistant to getting spoiled easily,” he said.
The stacked cardboards are left to dry after which the different parts of the device will be cut.
“We use the measurements to cut the cardboards into the various parts of the chair and then start assembling them accordingly. The process takes some time to finish because even after the assembling the work is not yet done. To finish up we coat the structure with a softer version of the cardboard which is the cardboard found in packed braids .This is to make the chair comfortable and not stiff which would prove to be dangerous to the child said Kevin. Then the last resort would be painting the chair and making it more beautiful likes the child who will own it,” he concludes.
But it has not always been easy since the idea was implemented .The foundation has faced and is still facing different challenges to fully realise the project.
“Though the project officially started in October 2020 the intention to start it begun earlier in 2017.But we were not able to due to in experience and also lack of funds among other setback. And in March, 2018 when I got an opportunity to send two of our own staff to Metropolitan Sanctuary in Nyeri for a workshop on APT And through that workshop the members came back and taught our other team members and from then we could begin to officially construct the workshop though it took long due to covid 19 outbreak,” said Maria.
“The project is labour intensive and therefore requires a lot of people to aid in the workshop. The workshop has three personnel working in there and one works full time while the two part times as volunteers,” adds wanjiru. Another problem will be in purchasing the raw material like the card boards for braids. Despite the fact most salons usually dispose the cardboards as trash and we collect them and now reuse,” said Kimani.
Though the project is new it will serve to aid the over 700 special need children residing in four informal settlements like Mukuru ,Kawangware ,Mathare and Kibra to access the devices free of charge.