Guest Post: Health Improves and Opportunities Grow for 8-Year-Old Tanzanian Girl

By Mosaic Carman International Fellow Daniel Scherer-Edmunds
With Translation Assistance From BCC Health Coordinator Godson Mmari

To celebrate National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (NIDDA), throughout the month, we’re sharing stories that illustrate how people served by Mosaic—and in this case, Mosaic International—make choices which reflect their personal goals and desires to live life their way.

Mosaic International has been in a partnership with Building a Better Community (BCC) in Tanzania since 2007 to serve children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Within Moshi, BCC has their Pasua Center with nine other service centers, which are primarily focused to provide comprehensive supports for children and young adults with intellectual disabilities and their families. 

Rahima lives in the Pasua neighborhood in Moshi, Tanzania, in a mostly Muslim part of the city.  Building a Caring Community’s (BCC) purposefully started a service center there that is close to the church to be good neighbors to those of different faith. A former BCC pastor said that the center’s love for all children has brought people of all faiths closer.

Any visitors to the Pasua center are consistently welcomed warmly by 8-year-old Rahima with a wide smile, charming giggle, warm hug or emphatic fist bump.

Bright-eyed and energetic Rahima has been sharing her positive energy across BCC for the past six years, when her family joined BCC’s program designed to offer comprehensive supports for children and young adults with intellectual disabilities and their families in Moshi.

Rahima shares a home with Bibi (in Swahili, “Bibi” means grandmother) in the Pasua neighborhood. Rahima’s mother lives nearby and helps out, but Bibi stepped up as the main caregiver, because she wanted to be close to her and so Rahima’s mother could focus on caring for Rahima’s brother.

When Rahima first joined BCC, she was severely malnourished—unable to walk, unable to feed herself and she wasn’t receiving any consistent medical care. Through BCC’s education, therapy, social, nutritional and medical services at Pasua center, her world has changed.

“We have benefitted through many things, I can’t even count,” said Bibi.

“When Rahima was young, she did not have any appetite. When she started attending the center, she ate with others, and her appetite improved. She did not know how to use the bathroom. Now she can use it and knows how to bathe herself. Before BCC, I could not afford to go to the hospital. Through the BCC health screening, we met with doctors, and they found out there was an issue with her heart. Through the medical insurance provided by BCC, we were able to go to the hospital and get help and medication to improve her condition.”

“BCC provided nutritional supplements for Rahima for two years, and now she has good health,” said BCC health coordinator Godson Mmari. “She can walk and move around. She is very friendly–she likes to greet and talk with everybody.”

BCC’s work and whole healthcare approach has improved the quality of life for Rahima’s whole family. BCC offers a microcredit loan program with low interest rates to empower families like Rahima’s who wouldn’t be accepted to receive such support from local banks due to their economic status.

Bibi Rahima received a loan in 2020 to run her business at Pasua market selling vegetables, fruits, and other home goods. After paying it back, she received and paid back a second loan in 2021, which allowed her to continue to expand her business.

“Before BCC, life was very bad,” said Bibi Rahima. “I had to care for children all the time, and the time for work was too small. Now every day, I bring my child to the center, and then I get to do my business until the evening, before I pick up my child to go home. I use the profits from my business to help Rahima and the whole family.”

In addition to the financial support, BCC provided foods such as rice, beans, maize (corn), cooking oil and more to Rahima’s family and others in the program to persevere through the past two years of COVID. Bibi Rahima and Mama Rahima have also attended many group counseling sessions with other families in the program at Pasua center.

“Bibi is a great community advocate and witness,” said Mmari. “She talks everywhere, even at the market, about the benefits of BCC and how to support people with disabilities.”

Looking ahead to the next year, BCC expects Rahima to attend an inclusive class at a neighboring school with her peers without disabilities. Bibi aims to continue expanding her business at the market and spreading disability awareness.

“I advise the community to bring children with intellectual disabilities to BCC, because BCC can really help the child,” said Bibi Rahima. “If you keep your children inside, the problem will just become bigger. It’s better to release the child from home and get support in the community. Don’t give up on the child because they have a disability.  Disability is not inability.”

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