CASA (Caring and Sharing Association) is a small charity which was started in Ireland in 1981. Its main goal is to create “social outlets and friendship opportunities for people with disability” (CASA website). Other activities include pilgrimages to Lourdes and respite holidays. I’m telling you this just in case, as it was for me two years ago, the name CASA is new to you.
Now after at least four visits to Thigio by representatives of CASA, the name just trips off the tongue and is familiar to many people here in Thigio. The reason for this is that CASA is supporting our special needs initiatives and also helping us to expand them. This is possible because of a donation, given through CASA, specifically to support special needs in Kenya.
So what is this collaboration achieving?
The Daughters of Charity has for many years been running a special education unit for children with intellectual disability. Two years ago an outreach programme was also started targeting and supporting the many children unable to access any kind of special needs intervention or care. The services offered by the Daughters of Charity were the sum total of special needs provision in the area. The programme was effective but still more was needed.
In the local government primary schools there are trained special needs teachers. The problem is they have no functional class because of the physical state of the classroom and because they have no teaching aids or materials. With the support of CASA we are turning these vacant rooms into bright well equipped facilities so that more children have the opportunity to access special needs education.
To date there are three (of nine) classes up and running. By the end of the year it is hoped that five more special needs classes will be operational in the area.
In addition to the special needs education for the children it was also agreed, with CASA, that we would set up three day centers, located in different areas, to cater for adults with special needs. As Thigio is a very rural location access to the main center is not always easy especially during the rainy season and also because of the cost of transport.
All three day centers will be sited on primary school land, a gift from the school’s Management Board and Parents Teacher Association for helping them with their special needs classes. It is hoped that the first of the day centers will be open by the end of this year. The choice of sites for the three day centers, therefore, has been strategic to allow for maximum access and use.
It is estimated that approximately 50% of the funding given by CASA will be used to set up all the facilities leaving the balance to help with running costs as we look for a permanent funder or generous donor.
The collaboration with CASA has helped to give special needs provision a high profile within our location and also helped to bring about greater cooperation and involvement with the local community.
The Daughters of Charity are grateful for the partnership with CASA and for their generosity. They had a grant to use in Kenya but they didn’t have to choose the Daughters of Charity. We are happy they did and I think they are happy they did too!