A girl at one of the three JRS run day care centres in Kakuma. JRS continues to support people living with disabilities in the camp. (Dani Villanueva SJ/JRS)

Kakuma, 1 November 2010 - JRS Mental Health Assistants in Kakuma refugee camp, northwest Kenya, conducted three disability awareness days in March, May and September 2010 for more than 600 students.

The days aimed at increasing the students’ understanding of the abilities of people with disabilities and the similarities they share. Students participated in one activity for each disability discussed. These included tasks like trying to find a seat while blindfolded or playing football with one leg tied.

“We hope that the participation in these days will foster understanding and help students to realise that disability is not inability. Further, we want to give students the confidence to interact with people living with disabilities in their communities and advocate for them,” Gretchen Emick, coordinator of JRS Mental Health Programme said.
The days were also meant to raise awareness of the challenges people living with disabilities face in Kakuma. During each day, students learned about various types of disabilities, including physical disability, learning disability, hearing impairments, visual impairments and autism.

It is estimated that up to 10 percent of refugees in Kakuma live with disabilities. JRS Mental Health Programme was set up in 1998 to meet the needs of people living with mental disabilities. The stigma surrounding mental disabilities often leads to marginalisation of those affected, who are left unable to discover and reach their full potential. JRS Mental Health Assistants work in three centres within Kakuma camp. Children and adults who attend the centres learn basic hygiene, living, reading and writing skills. All activities are tailored to the needs and capacity of each client. In 2010, JRS Mental Health Programme has served over 250 people with disabilities.

JRS continues to support people living with disabilities in the camp and recognises that awareness is an important tool in true integration in the communities. JRS Mental Health Programme offers a safe environment to learn and grow. JRS works with parents, communities and those living with disabilities to increase awareness and reduce stigma so that those living with disabilities become active community members.  

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