Monday, July 22, 2013

Goin' to Gabriella-Ella-Ella

This past week, Toa Nafasi has continued to make connections in the area of special education with other organizations in Moshi.  We had already conducted clinics at the hospital, KCMC, and a disability center, CCBRT, both of which were successful (and to be repeated shortly), but we made our first foray into a possible long-term partnership with one particular organization that I think will be very important in the future.

The Gabriella Rehabilitation Center located in Kibosho, just outside of Moshi proper, is an NGO aimed at supporting children with disabilities.  Their goals are to identify these kids early, assess them properly, and assist them to eventually become self-sufficient members of the community.  Sound familiar....?!

Gabriella consists of an integrated primary school for both disabled and non-disabled students as well as a full-time boarding facility for those who need it.  They also have on-site occupational therapists and teachers to assist kids with autism and learning disabilities, and to provide education and awareness to parents and the community at large.

Angi and I had visited the Center on a recon mission some weeks ago, but this time I went with eight of the students from Msaranga who we were most concerned about to get them assessed by Gabriella standards and to compare the findings with our own assessment.  I chose not to take photos out of deference to the Gabriella staff but, next time we go, I will at least take pictures of the grounds which are extremely nice.  (You can also check out Angi's blog which has a few shots of the environment at www.

Anyway, all of the children were assessed and their parents gathered for the results.  The bottom line: Brenda, the Gabriella director, wants to see everybody back for a "Week of Therapy" in October during which they will conduct more in-depth examinations of each child and the home environment.  But we have confirmed that all these kids do indeed have issues that must be addressed and that perhaps two or three of them will need to be enrolled at the Gabriella school because we don't think they can succeed at Msaranga Primary, even with Vumi's and my interventions.  So, come October, Vumi's gonna step up and be the "Head Mbongo In Charge" and organize the Week of Therapy with Brenda while I am in the United States knockin' down doors for contributions.

Until then, the plan is to continue with the tutoring sessions which Vumi and I initiated this past week.  Per the instructions of one Godfrey Mbowe, a social worker at KCMC, we started these classes with drawing in order to discern some of the children's "inner worlds."  Very interesting stuff we uncovered.  Check it....
The work of our most "troubled" student; when we asked her what she was drawing, she told us "a picture."  A picture of what?  "A white picture."  But what is it?  "A person."

This little girl is so sweet, so trusting, so loving, but she needs SOOOO much help.  I am TERRIFIED for her safety.  All it would take is one jack*ss to lure her into the shamba and have his way with her.

And this is from a kid we pulled from Standard Two, so he's a bit older than the others.  According to his mama, he is very aggressive at home and fights a lot with his siblings.  He does not enunciate well when speaking and was late to meet his milestones (crying, walking, talking, etc.)  Now, he's doing poorly in school as you an see from the "captions" next to his drawings, though he appears to know how to write at least a few of the syllables.  I think we can work with him though Vumi and I joke that maybe he is Maasai because whatever he's trying to spell looks like something out of their language!

Here are three heads bent, each concentrating hard on the task at hand, occasionally reaching for a new color from Vumi's lap.

This little girl is another student pulled from Standard Two.  Without revealing too much about her personal history, I can say that she was abandoned by her birth mother and taken in by a babu and bibi who, as far as I can tell, are not related to her in any way.  She is impossibly thin though by all accounts, she is well-fed and well-cared-for.  We went ahead and had her checked out by a physician, and there is nothing medically wrong with her so now we just have to try to draw her out of her shell.

Thanks to Angi, we were able to practice fine motor skills with these laminated sheets and dry-erase markers.  All the kids save one had great motor skills and enjoyed the exercise.

And don't go thinking Toa Nafasi is all work and no play.  There is a bromance a-bloomin' betwixt these two formerly silent and sullen young gentlemen.  I don't think they even knew each other prior to last week and now look at them!  Just fantastic to see and hugely uplifting as the social aspect of this work is just as important as the cognitive/critical thinking stuff.  The better they feel about themselves, the more open they'll be to trying new things in the classroom and the higher their chances of success in the future.

I love this picture.

Vumi's smile is like warm milk chocolate dripping onto three fluffy kittens underneath a rainbow made of shooting stars.

And this boy is one of the bros above, who usually hides his face and slouches so much that I took him to a doctor at KCMC to inquire about scoliosis.  Turns out he just really needed to color....

More - SO MUCH MORE - to come next week!

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