An awakening is taking place in the Ofafa Valley! In April people living with disabilities (PLWD) were invited to join the on-going disability trainings with CREATE at Woza Moya. Specialised transport was provided, to ensure that people, who wished to, were able to attend. There is a close correlation between PLWD and PLWA (people living with aids).

The origin of diseases (in particular HIV) and disabilities are commonly attributed to witchcraft, evil spirits or angry ancestors.  Over the years we have worked hard at challenging myths and addressing stigma related to HIV, with some positive shifts taking place. PLWD however continue to be strongly discriminated against. Many remain in dark and silent recesses, hidden away, voiceless, cursed, polluted, dirty, and abandoned.

One workshop participant, Ms Mtolo from Esigedleni, said that she cannot wait to tell others that ‘we have rights as people living with disabilities’. Her dream is to start support groups for PLWD and also for primary care givers of PLWD. Mr Dlamini from Mashakeni shared how for the first time in his life, he has been able to express himself and feel heard, respected and taken seriously. He said, ‘it is not my disability that is a problem but peoples’ attitudes towards me that makes my life difficult’.CREATE is teaching the Woza Moya Community Care Workers (CCW) how to identify people with disabilities, how to provide basic and early interventions and make referrals. The course also looks at appropriate attitudes towards people with disabilities and their families.

The CCWS have learned about different types of disability, the rights of people with disabilities and the responsibilities of service providers. They have been given the knowledge and skills of participatory rural appraisal in order to identify people with disabilities in the community. The course will continue, in the months ahead, with more in-depth information on child development and delay and interventions.

These trainings are changing the landscape of Ofafa with regard to people living with disabilities. 23 children were referred to Woza Moya in April, to be transported to the monthly disability clinic in Creighton. Previously we had on average 5 referrals per month. Also in April we were approached and welcomed a 3 year old child living with disabilities into our Play School. We are thrilled that community members are starting to realise that there is nothing to be ashamed of and that every person has the right to a full and happy life.