Tricycles for change in South Sudan

Tricycles for change in South Sudan

Simon Sala works to raise the quality of life for disabled people in South Sudan by helping to get them mobile.

Simon Sala Clement is a Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Supervisor working for Sudan Evangelical Mission (SEM), an NGO based in Mundri in Amadi state. SEM partners with Light for the World and SCIAF with support from European Union.

Story and photos by Thorkild Jørgensen.

'In areas where a CBR programme has been implemented - the community has changed its attitude towards the disabled.'

Simon works to raise the quality of life for disabled people in communities, where they are often the most vulnerable people. They have nobody to take care of them, because the family or the community doesn’t want to.

Changing attitudes...

'When I was being trained as a CBR worker I saw a lot of bad attitudes towards disabled people. Community or family members didn’t care about them. I really wanted to change their attitude, so that they would begin to realise that disabled people are equal to them.'

In areas where a CBR programme has been implemented the community has changed its attitude towards the disabled.

'Nowadays, you can actually find people with disabilities who will tell you about the positive change they have experienced.

'Before you couldn’t find the individuals who needed help, because people hid their disabled family members from public view.

'If for instance a child was born with hydrocephalus (fluids enlarging the head and sometimes causing brain damage) the family would hide that child forever inside their tukol (small house).

'It was considered shameful to have such a child. The disabled were given food of poor quality, while the other family members were sharing the best food.'

Changing atmosphere...

'Now, you see disabled children playing outside with other children. The community leaders have begun to realise that they must invite the disabled to share their view of the most challenging things in their lives.

'By sharing ideas with them they come to an understanding of how they on the one hand can involve the community in helping them, and how the disabled on the other hand can contribute to the community and thereby become an asset, rather than a burden.'

'Change in attitude has resulted in the disabled now being able to come and work together when there's a community project that needs helpers.' 

Another thing is that if the disabled are to be equal to the able bodied they need to be able to get an education. It can be very difficult for many to get to a school, and some schools are inaccessible to children with special needs.

Changing opportunities...

SEM provides solutions for children who can’t get to a school because of immobility or other issues. One of the solutions is to give the child a tricycle.

Before the CBR workers decide to give away a tricycle they have to first consider if the parents or the caregivers can take care of the tricycle, and whether they need to improve the child’s path to the school, to make it fit for this type of transportation.

If it is possible to improve the path the CBR workers organise the work and come as a team to widen the path and remove obstacles.

Travel challenges 

Getting the tricycles into the communities is a challenge, because the roads, especially in the rainy season, are full of big, muddy holes, and some of the cars get stuck for two or three days.

Accordingly, deliveries are made during the dry season from January to April, but the organisation is willing to spend up to a week on the roads, because trucks can carry more tricycles at a time than planes can.

The reason Simon is on a MAF flight westwards from Mundri to Maridi is that the rainy season makes travelling by road very tiresome. What takes half an hour by plane can take several days by car. Even when the roads dry up it takes forever, because the roads are not maintained.

Teaching change

When a tricycle is delivered to the child they start training the child. Riding the tricycle can be a challenge to many of them and they need to be encouraged to use the tricycle to get to their school.

Often a family member will follow them as an assistant.

At school the teachers are introduced to the child’s challenges. Many of the teachers need to be taught how to
deal with a pupil who has disabilities, because not long ago it was the common belief that children with disabilities were useless. 

Now you see many children with various disabilities such as hearing, sight or other physical challenges attending the schools.

In Maridi, Simon will be training teachers to make them ready to take on the responsibilities of having disabled children in their schools.

The teachers will therefore learn about inclusive education and be trained to use sign language and also taught how to write and read Braille. 'I praise my organisation for working hard amongst my people to create worthy lives for the disabled and giving them an equal opportunity to work and to get medical attention.

'The rainy season makes travelling by road very tiresome. What takes half an hour by plane can take several days by car.'