By: Alexandra Cairns
Frederick lives in a village in northern Tanzania, not far from Mount Kilimanjaro and the famous safari reserves we hear so much about. He lives in a rural area, and his home is very remote, surrounded by lush green vegetation. Frederick has cerebral palsy, one of the most common disabilities in children. It impacts about 17 million people worldwide.
When I visited Frederick’s family four years ago, I was with two physiotherapists. They visit Frederick at home regularly, to make sure Frederick’s mother is comfortable with his exercises, and that his custom-made wheelchair still fits him as he grows. When we arrived, Frederick was lying on his own in the house. The family doesn’t have access to electricity, so the room was very dark.
Raising a child with a disability is challenging in any part of the world. Just like many of us, Frederick’s mother had a lot of chores to do, and food to prepare for the family. When we arrived, the physiotherapists carried Frederick outside into the daylight and worked through Frederick’s physiotherapy exercises with his mother. Then, they put him into his wheelchair.
In that moment, I realized why Frederick’s mother couldn’t put him into his wheelchair until she could watch him: he was a daredevil! His friend, a little girl who lives nearby, pushed him to the top of a slope. Frederick proceeded to roll down it at speed, performing a skillful handbrake turn to avoid crashing into our parked car. We didn’t need to speak the same language for me to know that Frederick was having a lot of fun. He looked like a completely different boy to the one we saw lying in the dark a few moments earlier.
Sitting in his wheelchair turned Frederick’s day around. Imagine what that will mean for him if you do that today, tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that. Imagine what will happen if his friend doesn’t just push him to the top of the hill, but starts to push him to his classroom at school. Or when Frederick’s mother starts to take him with her to church, where he can interact with friends and become a part of his community. Before you know it, day by day, you have unlocked a whole new world of opportunity.
Four years ago, our External Affairs Manager, Alexandra Cairns, was on a field visit to Moshi, Tanzania. There, she met Frederick and his family, and saw the impact of CCBRT’s work to improve the mobility of children with long-term disabilities.