The Action Foundation (TAF) envisions a fully inclusive society where children and young people with disabilities can realize their maximum potential. TAF is currently serving over 700 children with physical and intellectual disabilities in four informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. As part of our Recycle to Transform Project, TAF has adopted the use of Appropriate Paper-based Technology (APT) as a solution to providing children with disabilities with assistive devices that are critical for their development. The very existence of APT is pegged on the technology’s low cost and sustainable solution where it utilizes waste materials (recycled cardboard and paper); to make useful products.
The journey begun in March, 2018 when two TAF team members directly involved in caregiving & provision of therapy services underwent a two week training on Appropriate Paper-based Technology at Metropolitan Sanctuary in Nyeri. This was aimed at ensuring they learn the skill of APT devices production and in turn pass on the knowledge to other caregivers and team members. TAF viewed this new development as a new dawn and a greatly welcomed idea, especially, since over the years we experienced challenges in meeting the needs for assistive devices for children with physical and developmental disabilities. The milestones that these children were derailed by the unavailability of these devices owing to the high costs that these devices attract.
In light of the above, TAF reached out to our partners Safaricom Foundation, Africa Yoga Project and Power Yoga Canada Mississauga for collaboration to build a workshop and produce the devices. Our goal was to create a space for preparation and storage of the APT devices, while at the same time generate a source of income for the caregivers who would be actively involved in the process.
After successfully securing the funds for the project, the construction process began in earnest in January 2020. A team including youth residing from the environs of Kianda, Kibera – the location of the workshop was constituted to set the ball rolling. In March 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country and the Kenyan government banned gatherings amongst other measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic. To comply with the regulations set to contain the spread of the virus, we suspended the construction works. Later, the construction team devised a plan to proceed with the construction which involved engaging no more than 6 people on the site, ensuring they observe the 1.5-meter social distance rule. The Action Foundation provided water points and masks for our workers on site. With this in place we were successful in completing construction in September 2020 and final building finishing in October 2020.
The establishment of the workshop had its’ fair share of challenges along the way. The off-loading of materials was quite a challenge as all the materials had to be carried manually from the main road to the construction site. In spite of the challenges, it has also brought significant benefits to the community. We improved the drainage system and rehabilitated the pathway to the workshop with the materials that were left over during the phases of our construction. Engaging the local youth to build the workshop enabled them to earn a decent living at a time when opportunities are limited due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The assistive devices such as sitting and standing aids, are currently being made and are highly customized for each child for each child. The process of making a device allows for a child to fit so that any particular need(s) for alterations are identified. This may include altering small angles to achieve the best fit. Designing is done based on preferences, needs & nature of an impairment hence the term “Appropriate” which implies that the devices created must be suitable for the child. These devices that would otherwise have attracted a costly financial investment are being made in a creative, engaging & enjoyable process. The caregivers are motivated by knowing that this is for the good of their child. What else can be more motivating for a mother!
We believe that the milestones that we have achieved so far will launch us to even greater heights in the future. Our joy upon seeing the products of the APT project over the past months and the gratitude expressed by the caregivers when they finally get to see their child fitted in the assistive devices is indescribable. Everyone involved especially the mothers have attested to experiencing a real sense of achievement in the project. APT has the potential of opening up livelihood opportunities for caregivers of children with disabilities and thus contribute to promoting economically empowered and resilient lives.