APT KENYA - CHANGING LIVES USING CARDBOARD.
APT KENYA was started in February 2022, 4 years after The Potter’s House CBO was founded. During those 4 years, while working to provide support to the disabled community, we had seen first-hand the struggles parents have caring for children with disabilities without any knowledge or postural support equipment available. We saw the devastating impact that the lack of good postural management has on the child physically.
An estimated 114,500 children are born with cerebral palsy in Kenya each year, and 70% of these children live in poverty. Nearly half of these will be unable to sit or stand unsupported. Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of physical disability in children but there are many others that also mean the child cannot sit or stand unaided. The lack of medical expertise, lack of well-fitting, suitable equipment and the high cost of any equipment that might be available, makes it virtually impossible for parents to get their child the equipment they need and place them in a good postural position. Very few of the parents we work with understand the diagnosis and so do not know how best to care for their child. This means children are left lying in the same asymmetrical position all day, on the floor or a bed, with no stimulation and unable to move. Without good postural management, children often develop painful and fixed contractures such as hip dislocations, limb contractures and spinal deformities. They are trapped in their homes and cannot participate in family or community activities. Ignored by those around them, stepped over or forgotten, they have an isolated and often painful existence.
Already having knowledge of Appropriate Paper-based Technology (APT), it was our desire to address this need directly once funding was found and to provide children with the equipment they so desperately need.
Roll on 4 years and our prayers were answered by a new organisation called APT for Social Development who secured a grant from the Welsh government Wales-Africa grant scheme that would fund our APT KENYA project throughout 2022. The Wales-Africa grant meant that in February of that year we were able to train and start employing two local men to fabricate APT devices such as chairs, standing frames and wheelchair inserts for local children. Supported by Paediatric Physiotherapist Cath Barton and Paediatric Occupational Therapist Deb May, from the UK, and through a grant from The Multi-Agency International Training and Support organisation (MAITS) we were also able to train local therapists how to correctly assess, measure and prescribe suitable devices according to the child’s individual needs. This was essential to making sure all equipment given out is appropriate and safe for the children.
So, what is APT? Well, it’s basically cardboard and paper used to create something so simple, yet so impactful that it changes a life immediately it is used. Layers of cardboard are glued together using a flour and water paste and covered with multiple layers of paper before being painted and decorated. All the materials can be sourced locally. Importantly, engineering principles are used when making the device to make sure that once dry, it is strong and safe for the child to use.
The project has gone from strength to strength and has quickly become known in other areas of Kenya as well, with some parents travelling for a whole day to bring their child for assessment. The need is as great as the impact. For the first time ever, the children are able to sit up and engage in family life. Families and neighbours are starting to see the potential the children have and include them in activities. Children crowd around them, excited to see the equipment and bringing toys to play with them on their tray. The increased stimulation and involvement in family life has encouraged some children to try to communicate, making sounds after years of silence. Others have been able to hold a cup for the first time or feed themselves and some love to draw pictures now they can sit upright without falling.
It's not just the children that have benefitted though, all parents have reported that having a chair or standing frame to put their child in where they know they are happy and safe has made caring for them much easier. They have also said how family and friends have changed their perception of their child and started interacting much more with them and not verbally abusing them anymore. We know that the stigma surrounding disability will take many generations to eradicate but it is a start, and for these few children and their parents, it makes a huge difference.
The APT KENYA project goes hand in hand with The Potter’s House CBO’s work with families, parents are employed to do the less skilled work of papering and painting which has enabled them to pay school fees and feed their family. We are also using APT as an activity to engage street connected children on Saturdays, giving them a safe space away from the streets where they learn transferable skills, get creative and can take home the household items they make such as stools and wastepaper bins.
To date, 132 devices have been made but it is not cheap. The project requires manpower and materials. While cardboard and paper are often donated, paint and fabrics are not. In 2023, The Wales-Africa Grant Scheme provided a second grant for the project making it possible for APT KENYA to continue and to grow. After being contacted by parents from all over Kenya we saw the need to train another organisation how to make APT equipment. In February 2023, with more support from MAITS, we had the pleasure of training 3 APTers and 10 Therapists from BethanyKids who are now producing APT devices in their own workshop in a different area of Kenya. This training for the therapists was led by Cath Barton who continues to give her support voluntarily to the project by sharing her professional skills and knowledge, for which we are extremely grateful.
The project has brought a community together, is helping to break down the barriers and stigma people living with disabilities in Kenya face and is changing lives.
We are now seeking funding to keep APT KENYA going in 2024. If you or your company would like to help make a real difference to children’s lives in Kenya, please get in touch email@example.com
You can make a one-off donation or set up regular donations by using this link https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/22185#!/DonationDetails
To make a bank transfer without using a donation platform use these details and add reference APT.
The Potter’s House CBO
Account – 00033344 Sort Code: 40-52-40
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