Disabled people in Tanzania are treated with mistrust and fear. It’s deeply embedded in their society. The able-bodied people we meet in the town are all lovely, warm people, but the fear and mistrust of the disabled is in part caused by folk stories that disabled children have been cursed or are a curse on their family. Mistrust stems from a prejudice that they are all beggars; unable to pay for things in shops and on what little public transport there is. Neema Craft has really begun to change this. The local towns and villages see the current and former Neema workers confident, financially independent and some now as house owners. Attitudes towards the disabled are increasingly changing as locals come to know the Neema Craft shop and café and see production in full swing.
The Neema Craft workers may still have physical disability but that’s only on the outside. They are no longer disabled in their opinion of self-worth and the local people are unwittingly supporting this change. This to me is what makes Neema Craft very special and something EG is proud to support as Neema looks to expand physically into new premises and, as a seed of an idea, into an additional location so that Neema Craft’s special magic can work elsewhere, changing attitudes.
If there was a single word for this trip it would be 'joy.' A particular highlight was to drive out to see 8 of the 18 houses that have been built with funds from EG and our friends including George Miltenyi. The families that have already moved in proudly showed us around and thanked the sponsors profusely. We had the honour of cutting the ribbon to open a newly completed home, then handing the keys over to the delighted and overwhelmed new owners. With the blessing of the local bishop bestowed on all the homes and everyone associated with this project, cake was cut and fizzy drinks passed out to one and all. How wonderful to be present at this great occasion.
We were with the Neema Craft team and the orphanage for less than a week, but time was totally distorted by all that we had seen and experienced. We have left true friends that are inspirational and true role models in their skills, dedication, care, ingenuity, hard work, integrity and faith. They all have a great sense of humour and close culture that sits well with that of EG. Driving back to the tiny airport it seemed as if we had landed to see the orphan children dancing to welcome us more than a month before. We left Iringa dusty, emotionally drained and physically exhausted. How they do this week after week, month after month, year after year shows their enormous stamina.
This home building project will really transform the lives of the Neema Craft workers and their families. There are lots more needed and hopefully we can continue our financial support. You can learn more about Neema Craft through their website, and see their wonderful products and gifts – Christmas isn’t far away.