For over a year-and-a-half, our team had wanted to start a regional group in a town known as Chilgazi. A half hour’s drive away from Isfara by bus, we wanted to expand access to our Early Intervention (EI) services to this community and others farther away. We had been praying about starting the group and looking at possible venues, but despite some contact with mothers and social workers, no place had been found. Finally, we were approached by a community leader and were offered an unused small community mosque for our use.
Upon accepting, we held an introductory meeting. We gathered mothers, stakeholders, and even the district mayor and explained our projects. We would meet once a week with children and a family member (it’s not a daycare!), play with them, and work on therapy exercises. A main goal is to connect mothers with children with disabilities with one-another and show them that they’re not alone.
The space we found is quite unusual. Being an old mosque, there is a dome over the entrance, a big prayer room, and a smaller room. Even so, we feel this location was made available by God. We and the community feel it honors God to help children with disabilities in this place. And so, we have experienced incredible commitment from families to what we are doing here. Mothers will bring their children to the EI groups despite rainy days and swamped, muddy streets. They are asking us to come and hold EI groups and consultations twice a week. And they are identifying and sending more and more people with disabilities our way.
Since starting the group in Chilgazi, we are experiencing great appreciation from neighbors and the town government. We are especially excited for the involvement of the social workers at this site. Recently we held a community event initiated by a social worker who wanted to celebrate the birth of her grandchild. She organized a big osh-eating celebration (osh is a rice dish popular in gatherings). The conversations displayed the new trust this community had developed so quickly! It was exciting to see community leaders and the mayor of the district join us.
We believe engaging with the local community is essential to doing effective development work. By working with leaders and citizens, we can positively affect attitudes towards children with disabilities and encourage a sustainable integration of our projects into the community.