On Saturday, May 28, 2016, PASSOP hosted a Parents Empowerment Seminar specifically targeting parents who have children with disabilities. The meeting was well attended with over twenty parents from countries including, but not limited to South Africa, Rwanda, DRC, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. The program highlighted four primary issues that parents often face when caring for children with disabilities including: documentation/permit issues, lack of employment opportunities, difficulties with funding their children’s education, and tensions with Home Affairs.
The meeting began with introductions by the Project Coordinator, Wilson Tarusanra, PASSOP Director Bernard Toyambi, and PASSOP Chairperson of the Board members Mr. Braam Hanekom. Each spoke about the importance of creating and sustaining a group that caters to parents of children with disabilities and PASSOP’s commitment to ensuring the retention of the program. The keynote speaker for the session was Dr. Judith McKenzie who works in community initiatives to address issues including poverty, exclusion, and disability in South Africa. In 1993, when her son was born with Down Syndrome, Dr. McKenzie became a leader and activist for children with disabilities. Dr. McKenzie spoke about the troubles many parents face when having a child with disabilities including, difficulties with finding and retaining adequate employment, the struggle of finding and funding a private school education that caters to the needs of children with disabilities, and the necessity of emotional and physical support for the children’s parents.
During the meeting, parents discussed long and short term goals that would assist them financially by being able to support their children while not having to be separated from them for an extended period of time. It was suggested that the parents generate their income from learned skills that will allow them to work from home such as sewing, knitting, and pastry baking. Likewise, some mothers suggested it would be beneficial to create a learning center for children with disabilities and the parents will be able to teach the children while charging parents a small fee. Overall, the most important need expressed by parents is their need of physical and emotional support. Many of the parents with disabled children do not have family and very few friends to lean on in their time of need and are often alone during long hospital stays.
To ensure the continued success of the program, a steering committee was formed by the project coordinator and several parents who will discuss a plan of action and follow up with participants in the coming weeks.
To find out more information about the program, please contact PASSOP at firstname.lastname@example.org.