The lesson that disability is not restricted to a physical, sensory or intellectual impairment but also depends on the barriers disabled people face is one that we, too have encountered and learned from through our programs.
Amazing work you all are doing - we look forward to seeing your success in South Africa!
In terms of scaling the project and future hypotheses, one goal is to make it easier for families to plug-in to resources beyond the Centre by improving and bringing more attention to those resources.
Ideally we will be able to create enough success through our programs and our mile deep, inch wide approach that we can leverage them in a way that facilitates change on a national level. We hope to inspire similar programs in communities that are not yet within our reach.
One question we hope to answer with future iterations of outreach programs is can our consistent work with mainstream schools actually empower their growth in being able to accommodate children with disabilities. Bringing children with special needs into a consistently visible position at local schools will likely allow us to open fruitful conversations about a wide range of changes within the schools that will narrow the gap between the Centre and mainstream education.
Many of the changes that we are already able to begin implementing based on feedback will hopefully have measurable results within a short amount of time. We are eager to see how shifting some of our marketing to be more visual and creating the anonymous hotline will effect the reach of our message and willingness of families to come forward for information.
To your question of how we serve children with complex needs in segregated environments - our social inclusion events are a large part of how we bridge that segregation gap. By bringing people out to our land and hosting celebrations, we are automatically realigning how people are used to connecting to and interacting with children with disabilities.
Expanding social inclusion events to mainstream schools in addition to those we host at the Centre and the Cafe significantly helps bring down social barriers about special needs. Not only does it help other children learn how to interact with children with special needs, but it also changes how teachers perceive children with special needs and their place within the school system. This exposure helps create a culture where children grow up with an understanding of persons with disabilities and one where the community comes together to care for them, not fear them.
Leveraging the reputation of our commerce brand (the Cafe, water, and Ubuntu Made products - https://ubuntumade.com/) is another key tool that we rely on to narrow the gap of social acceptance of people with disabilities. These programs allow us to create full time jobs in the community, including benefits such as healthcare for our employers and their families. By creating meaningful connections locally, fostering a culture of respect, and establishing strong relationships between our partners, our suppliers and our customers, we are able to draw attention to the mission of the Special Needs Centre.