Meet Sigridur Ingibjorg Stefansdottir, or “Sigga” for short. She traveled all the way from Iceland to work with the children of BCC for six months, returned to Iceland, but recently came back to Moshi to continue working with BCC! Throughout her experience, she has learned a great deal about BCC, herself, and working with children who have disabilities.
Sigga is from a small city in Iceland called Akureyri. She attended the University of Akureyri to study occupational therapy, and upon graduation decided that she wanted to try something new with her degree. She searched for volunteer opportunities for occupational therapists, and found BCC. Here are some of her thoughts about her experience here in Moshi.
Favorite part of working in the center: “Meeting the people and learning from them about what they have been doing with the children. I learned a lot of things I would never learn in Iceland because the situation in Moshi would never happen in Iceland. If you’re born in Iceland with a disability, you will have therapy right away. Some of the children [in Moshi] have only been in the center for two years, and they are ten years old, so they didn’t have anything for eight years. In the Pasua center, my favorite experience was seeing how much the children had improved in two months.”
Relationship with Shaeli, Center in Charge at Moshi 2 center: “I needed her because she has relationships with all of the children. It’s really good for me to work with her because of her knowledge about the children. Some of them can’t tell me because they can’t speak, so I need to work with someone who knows them well. My goal is always to work directly with the child or with the person who knows the child best. Shaeli showed me what therapies she is doing with the children. Mama Edina (Center in Charge at Pasua center) and Shaeli are trying to do everything they know, and are willing to learn more.”
Best day at BCC: “At the Pasua center, Mama Edina misplaced the keys to the center one day and we couldn’t get inside, so I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we walk around Pasua? There are a lot of things in Pasua that I haven’t seen.’ So we walked around with the children and they really loved it. They were showing me around the town and they were out in the community, meeting and speaking with different people.”
Most impactful achievement: “I took photos of every child at Moshi 2 center and put it on a profile, and I made a short story about them. I talked about their family, interests, diagnosis, personality, where they are from, how old they are, when they started in the center. I took two weeks to learn how their bodies are moving and what they are able to do and want to do, and then I made a plan. It is very simple to understand, so I think when you read it, you can understand it even if you don’t know a lot about disability.”
Advice for future volunteers: “I would tell them to ask about which disabilities the children have, and then read about them. Be willing to help, and if the mama doesn’t understand English, you can learn a few sentences in Swahili, or go to the BCC office and ask them for help.”
What she learned from her experience: “I learned a lot about myself. As an occupational therapist, I learned a lot about how to work with children with disabilities. When they can’t tell me what’s wrong, I just have to look to find out. I also learned that you don’t even have to speak the same language to understand each other. You don’t have to speak the same language but you can have a conversation. Even if we couldn’t speak, we have a connection: I am his occupational therapist, and he is my client.”
We at BCC are incredibly grateful for volunteers like Sigga who dedicate their time and talents to serving the children and young adults of BCC. Thank you for your enthusiasm, insight, and impact!
By Alex Bailey