Friday, January 10, 2014

Accra Rehabilitation Center

Today we went to the Accra Rehabilitation Center and The Ghana Federation of the Disabled. Both of these places were powerful and inspiring. The ARC is a government institution that was established in 1962 as a training center for persons with disabilities. Categories served include those that are Blind, Deaf, MR, Physically Disabled and others. At the center persons with disabilities are training in skills such as tailoring, carpentry, shoe making, crafts and visual arts. The overall process for being admitted into the ARC can be long and costly...especially as time is money.... One must go to the dept. of social welfare where a report will be filled to the center and the potential client will come for an assessment where they will hopefully be admitted. Those admitted to the ARC live at the center and are provided 3 meals a day, in addition to the skills they will learn which ideally will allow for these people to have a skill that they can succeed and make a living teaching and doing.

The center serves adults only and could take several months to get accepted to... although there are only about 30 trainees right now. It seems that the center is not getting what they have expected from the social welfare agency in terms of sending those in need to the center... and there are many. The center is funded by the Ghanian government... which pays the teachers, room and board of the trainees, materials... everything. The amount they are given in 2013 was, I believe 300 cedis....(that is appx. $150USD. and it is also hardly, hardly enough!!) I am not sure how they keep the program running, but  I guess they do. They also get funding from donors, like NYU who gave a generous donation to the center out of the activity fee we students paid, which is very nice. 

It was an amazing place with an amazing purpose. Providing an opportunity for these disabled Ghanians to make a life for themselves on their own is not the norm, from what I have seen. One of the largest sources of income in Ghana is that of tourists and It seems to me that begging for cedis on the street is way easier and more lucrative than hustling at the market after learning a craft so its a pretty big deal what is happening at the center. We got to meet some of the teachers at the center, although the trainees were away on winter vacation. Moses, a talented textile clothing maker spoke with us and showed us some of the amazing shirts he made. We also got to see the paintings of a man who uses his residual limbs to hold the brush, which were beautiful and a few other individuals doing woodworking and carpentry, shoe and handbag making. 

All and all I felt very privileged for the opportunity to visit and learn about the ARC as it was a pretty unbelievable place. The feeling that I get, over and over each day is a mix of gratitude, passion, frustration, sadness, pride and joy. There is so much that is not done and so much need for the people of Ghana and those with disabilities but it is not NOTHING. The awareness is small and still feels like just a "kind of" conversation but at least there is one happening at all. I am grateful for what I am seeing, experiencing and learning, and also for the opportunity to be with a group of intelligent and inquisitive people who are able to have a real dialog about it. The issues we are discussing and conversations we are having are a big deal... the topic is a big deal... I'm going to bed feeling pretty positive because it's nice to be with a group of people who inspire me, and that's where I'm at. 



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