What Are We Actually Doing?

img_8562Mosaic’s Carman International Fellowship application for 2018-2019 is now open! Mosaic seeks to create awareness about disability not only in the communities in which we serve, but also for development professionals. The fellowship offers those with a background in public health, human rights, and international development a chance to gain direct experience with disability issues in Tanzania. Alex Bailey, 2017-2017 Carman Fellow, describes what this really looks like.

Written in March 2017

‘Although I am halfway through my fellowship now and have lived in Tanzania for almost seven months, I continue to struggle to explain what exactly I do here, because the day-to-day of the fellowship is so varied and no two days look the same.

I was drawn to the Carman International Fellowship with Mosaic because it perfectly coincides with my beliefs about international development and collaboration. The fellow has the opportunity to work with a local, grassroots organization providing community-based services and a rights-based approach to advocacy in a society in which people with disabilities continue to be stigmatized and the concept of human rights is embryonic. The fellow works with all BCC programs and office staff and acts as the on-the-ground liaison between BCC and Mosaic International. The fellow’s main responsibilities consist of building staff capacity, strengthening monitoring and evaluation of programs, increasing sustainability, assisting in planning and implementation of events and trainings, and any other activities that strengthen BCC’s services, such as partnership building. The role as liaison between Mosaic International and BCC includes producing media and data such as photos, videos, blogs, and social media content for Mosaic International and communicating with Mosaic International staff in the U.S.

All of this sounded great but remained difficult to conceptualize until I began working in Moshi.

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In reality, my time is divided between working in the coordinating office of BCC and in the field visiting centers and working at the shamba (farm). Recently, I’ve been gathering media and stories for Mosaic International’s largest fundraising event of the year, coordinating BCC’s participation in the Kilimanjaro Marathon 5K, planting new vegetables and herbs for the farm, researching how to write an Individualized Education Plan and creating forms in English and Kiswahili, working with our Health Coordinator to coordiante nutritional supplements for our medically fragile children and creating a budget for the ProMOT Health Program for the year. I’ve been working with partners such as Femme International to coordinate trainings to empower our young women and ChildReach to further educate our staff about childrens’ rights and rights of persons with disabilities in Tanzania. Our occupational therapist Sister Woinde and I are conducting annual evaluations of each of our community-based centers throughout Moshi and will provide a report and recommendations based on the results. The current Microsoft Word documents open on my computer include a new schedule for the Young Adult Program as it evolves, a draft of a blog post about cerebral palsy in Tanzania, a schedule for a Special Olympic Day, and a draft of a new potential partnership.

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Meritt, the previous fellow, often refers to this fellowship as a rollercoaster, hitting the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the same day. She’s absolutely right. Last Friday, for example. I arrived at the office at 9am, after taking a bodaboda (motorcycle taxi). Shedrack, an occupational therapist from another organization serving people with disabilities in Moshi, had agreed to come to one of our centers to evaluate a new client for therapeutic equipment. The little boy, Prince, is just over one-year-old and has cerebral palsy. This is an extremely important time because by age 5, children with cerebral palsy will reach 90 percent of their gross motor potential, and this occurs even earlier in children with severe CP. Therefore, we have the ability to make a huge impact with therapy at this age. I called the center that Prince attends to ensure that he would be present and the woman who runs the center told me that Prince’s mother has run away and abandoned the child, but that he would be at the center.

Then I sat down with Patrick, one of the members of our Young Adult Program team, to work on logistics and a budget for a Special Olympics day. Next Patrick and I went to the Rau KDC Center where many of our young adults receive services to gather media for Mosaic. After we finished, Patrick turned on the car and blasted one of the most popular songs here that is played constantly, but is so catchy that I (and apparently everyone else) still love it. One of the young adults Ema was outside and started sporadically mixing in dance moves while he was walking. Patrick and I couldn’t stop laughing. We then listened to that song on repeat on our way back to the office, singing and dancing in the car. We ate lunch at the office, which consisted of rice and beans and cooked vegetables, and then I met with our Accountant Vicky to review the BCC budget for 2017. Then Patrick dropped me off at our Moshi 1 Center to meet Shedrack to assess Prince.

When we got to the center, Prince was the only client left, as it was later in the afternoon. We discovered that he had a high fever and decided that he needed to be seen by a pediatrician immediately, lest his fever continue through the weekend and cause him further brain damage than may already have been sustained, or worse. We took him to a clinic to see a pediatrician, and then made sure that Prince was admitted to a hospital to receive antibiotics from an IV, since he cannot swallow properly due to his cerebral palsy. Prince has now recovered and is receiving daily therapy to improve his mobility. I visited yesterday and have already seen progress.

This day was slightly out of the norm due to the medical emergency, but this single day provides a snapshot of the challenges facing people with disabilities and their families in Tanzania. There are many, many challenges. But there are also many opportunities for change. I am honored to play a small role in the improvement of services for the children and young adults that BCC serves, and will continue working to the best of my ability to ensure that every child BCC serves can live a life of possibility.’

Contact Meritt Buyer at meritt.buyer@mosaicinfo.org to receive an application packet or with any questions about this opportunity.

 

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