Weʼre raising £5,000 to The Bright Autism Centre, Hawassa, Ethiopia
- Hawassa, Ethiopia
- 17 days to go
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Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg, 16th July 2003)"
The Bright Autism Centre (BAC) is a school for children with autism in Hawassa, Southern Regions, Ethiopia. The school opened in May 2016. The name Bright Autism Centre was devised by its Director, Tigist Abebe, who states that
Bright refers light. Light directly relates with wisdom, knowledge, hope and bright future. So the team believe that the centre will create bright future for children with autism and their families .It is also simple, easy, and meaningful to us and others to understand this message.
There is no formal statistics on how many Ethiopian children are on the autism spectrum disorder, however recent demographic statistics state that there are currently 44 million Ethiopians under 14 years of age. There are no reasons to assume that the rates of people with autism are dependent on coming from a high/low income country so for this reason, the commonly cited figure of 500,000 children with autism in Ethiopia may not be unrealistic. Historically, there has been a lack of awareness about autism among the country's health professionals. Psychiatry training only commenced for the first time in 2003 and to date there are only a handful (under 5) child psychiatrists in the country. There are are under 20 psychologist practicing in the country with only 1-2 are clinical psychologists specialising with children. The first graduates of Speech and Language therapy will only graduate in 2019.
The Bright Autism Centre is one of only 4 autism schools in the country. Three of these centres, including this centre, were founded with the support of ReachAnother Foundation NL. BAC has been providing life changing and in some cases life saving services for children with autism. This may seem like a strange statement to make as having autism is not a life threatening condition, however when you have autism in a country with poor awareness, lack of resources and education and daily demands of the family are on focusing on life essentials of seeking food, shelter and labour then this does indeed place the child with a disability at serious risk of survival. Tigist, the centre's Director, who is also a mother of a child with autism who is attending the centre states
There is a problem but no solution and the problem is getting severe and is growing. There is a lack of awareness in society and often when a child has received a diagnosis the family will close their door, hide and do not look to find a solution. The lack of awareness in society and the community is the same in government. Due to this lack of awareness, parents physically tie their children in their home.
I have been so fortunate to have been part of BAC since origins in January 2016. I have seen first hand the amazing achievements and successes the school is making. In interviews I have completed with parents of families attending the school at all stages of the schools progression so far (pre opening of the school, after the first year the school being opened and again when the school commenced their second year) the reach and impact is truly astonishing. Families unequivocally state that aside from the significant improvements in their child's motor, speech and social developments, there is also significant improvements in the child's ability to partake in family life which is essential to the well being of all family members. Until the school opened, families faced circumstances in which they could not be approved for rented accommodation because they had a child with special needs, that there would be inconsistency in being able to provide a daily meal for all family members on a daily basis as both parents could not go out and work as no member of the extended family or community would mind their child with special needs as the belief was that special needs was contagious. This is what I mean when I say the school is life changing and life saving as these barriers no longer exist for these families.
The school is at a critical point of existence. Due to recent local turmoil in the region, the school has not being able to undertake its crucial fundraising efforts and now in jepoarary of the school closing as they are unable to cover their rent for the rest of this school year which has to be paid up front ($2,000 -6 months payment upfront). The school is also completely reliant on special needs educational resources and donations that simply are not available in Ethiopia. The average salary of a school teacher is $24 a week. To support a child getting to and from school daily to access this incredible opportunity is approx $2 a day. Any support that we can generate to support this school would be so greatly appreciated. Please help ensure that we can continue to shine BAC light brightly with any donation you can make.
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About the fundraiser
Ciara has over 14 years experience working with children and young people with special needs in Ireland, in the UK , The United States of America, across Europe, Africa and Pakistan. Ciara is registered with the British Health Professional Council.