An Occupational Therapy Student’s Encounter with Kibera August 17, 2015  by      

[Editor’s Note: As you will read, CFK welcomed 4 Occupational Therapy students and their professor to Kibera in June to conduct a needs and environment survey for people living with disabilities in Kibera. The project was a huge success and we are excited to continue partnering with them. Below, please enjoy Caryn Biglow’s summary and reflection on her time there.]

By: Caryn Biglow, UNC Occupational Therapy Student

group on street

This summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to Kibera with a group of fellow Occupational Therapy classmates and my professor. We had two goals: to learn more about the wonderful work that Carolina for Kibera does, and to help them better serve those with disabilities in their community. This year was the first year that the UNC Division of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy and had partnered with CFK. As occupational therapists, we are trained to work with people living with disabilities of all ages in order to help support them through meaningful activities, regardless of where they are in life. We were excited to bring our unique viewpoints and skill sets to Kibera and see how our interests and training could benefit those in Kibera.

Our team spent just over two weeks in Kibera soaking up as much information as we could about the Kibera community, CFK and the people that work with them, and other organizations in and around Kibera that work with individuals with disabilities. In the two weeks that we were there, we were able to interview 25 different individuals, organizations, and key stakeholders that serve the community. The insights that these interviews provided were invaluable in helping us understand challenges involving disability in Kibera. The biggest theme that emerged from the time spent in both formal and informal conversations with others was that there is significant stigma associated with having a disability. In spite of the stigma, we were able to learn about the wonderful programs that CFK and other local organizations provide for children and youth in Kibera both with and without disabilities.

Some of the conversations that resonated with us the most were those we had with individuals living with disabilities that had overcome the pervasive stigma against them. These individuals had strong family support systems and had a resiliency that kept them going through the worst circumstances. Our entire group felt like these individuals could be strong role models for children that are experiencing stigma related to disability. Their stories of overcoming adversity at schools and in their community are the stories and images that will stay with me for years to come.

In just over two weeks our group was able to help compile a comprehensive resource list of organizations in and around Kibera that support individuals with disabilities. We also developed ideas of de-stigmatizing disability and brainstormed ideas for trainings that might be beneficial for staff and leaders in the community to learn more about disabilities. Our team left Kibera feeling like we had just cracked the surface on how we could assist others in understanding disabilities and how to continue to serve those with disabilities in Kibera. I am incredibly grateful for the time we had in Kibera, the wonderful people that we met, and the time that we spent working with the individuals at Carolina for Kibera. My team and I could not have asked for a more fulfilling two weeks.

group with boots

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