By Zewdie Bekele
“I feel like my dream to participate is a reality. I feel like a newborn child,” says Dawit. “After participating in a few games I started to develop confidence. I went home and told my mother how I was selected in the Right To Play program.”
Until now, the 14-year-old boy has never played with the other kids in his community. Ever. Because of a growth deficiency, no one thought Dawit could keep up with his peers and his parents were scared that if he did join in, he’d get hurt. It’s a fairly typical response in Wuchale District, Ethiopia. Here, children living with disabilities are often stigmatized. With limited understanding of what these children are capable of, and few social services to provide them with support, many children living with a disability do not have the opportunity to go to school or to participate in social activities. But that’s changing.
In 2013, we began implementing activities in the Wuchale District with the purpose of providing children with the opportunity to play and engage in our activities, empowering them to develop life skills and a better understanding of inclusion, empathy and teamwork.
When Dawit saw that our trained teachers were including all of the children, regardless of their physical size or abilities, he asked if he could be included. The answer was: yes. Amazed by the newfound courage and confidence in her son, Dawit’s mother also agreed.
Dawit’s inclusion is creating a domino effect with his schoolmates and our lessons about respect, acceptance and understanding are changing the way his entire community thinks, for good.