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Games of Exclusion: How children with disability are breaking the barriers

Article By: Sarah Namulondo (Fundraising Officer – CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital)

Games of Exclusion: How children with disability are breaking the barriers

ISU international school of Uganda -

A struggle has many faces, and sometimes you don’t have to be in pain to suffer. You simply need to be at a play ground watching other children scream away in joy as they kick a ball, or run around in circles chasing each other under the morning tepid sun.

Damastin standing with his prosthetic leg

Damastin standing with his prosthetic leg

Watching other children play was not my biggest problem. My problem was trying to imagine myself moving to their rhythm. I always thought to myself, I can’t do that. Can I? That for me was a real struggle. My name is Damastin; I was born with a deformed short limb. At 3 years old when every child is mastering the art of walking, I was nursing a healing stump from an amputation, because the doctors said my limb had no sensation, and therefore it was dangerous to keep it. Every night, I prayed to God to give me a new leg. I just couldn’t understand why my brothers could have legs and I didn’t. I couldn’t understand why they could play, run around without a care in this world and I couldn’t. On most occasions my siblings played with the neighbourhood children and I was but a spectator, mulling over why I couldn’t do what they were doing. When I was 7 years old, the Team at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital gave me a ray of hope. They told my mother, I could have a chance to walk again if they re-shaped my stump and gave me a prosthetic limb. In Early 2011, I had undergone the surgery, healed and was started on the process of medical rehabilitation. Towards the end of 2011, my life was moving so fast… I could run around all I wanted! Play in puddles of water when it rained— I too, didn’t have a care in this world.

As a child and as a person, you are born with an inherent and healthy need to play and that need does not exclude children with disabilities. Children with disability can often feel excluded from mainstream society. Consequently they can feel that they do not fit in and are inferior.

Inclusive-play is a way of bridging the gap between mainstream and disabled children. Both groups can benefit from playing together and learn a lot from mixing with those so-called “different” from them.

Christine Tusiime, the Head of Rehabilitation Services at CoRSU Hospital says that “children at all ages learn in all aspects of development through play to gain emotional, social, physical and mental development.” Tusiime states that playing is a full time occupation of children, if you take that away or if a physical limitation takes it away the child’s developmental milestones will be affected or delayed.

Playing for children with disability doesn’t only make the rehabilitation process fun and less daunting but it introduces the child with disability to games they can actually play within their own physical capacity”, Tusiime said.

This alone helps the child become more confident on the play ground and it gives them the opportunity to introduce new games to their physically able friends.

At CoRSU we believe that this kind of inclusive play will help a child with physical disability to get a clear understanding of their physical differences from the others, develop an attitude of tolerance, become more accepting of other people’s attitudes but most of all, help them learn new languages.

Uganda is blessed with about 50 ethnic tribes and the play ground is known to have no cultural barriers as children who speak totally different languages can depend on sign language to communicate with each other while they play.

Over 5,000 corrective Orthopaedic and Plastic Reconstructive surgical procedures  and about 10,000 rehabilitation therapy treatments are performed at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital every year, out of those, the 80% are children.

Even though CoRSU is a Hospital that’s known for giving hope to people with disability in Uganda, not all the surgical procedures performed on children are corrective orthopaedic surgeries.

Which means some children remain physically challenged but still under go rehabilitation care at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital to cope with the challenges of being disabled.

Moses Kiwanuka, the Head of Outreach and Partnerships at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital asserts that “inclusive play is the only way you can break the barriers and the negative attitudes of communities towards children with disability”
. Playing in itself creates independence for these children but also fosters interaction between the physically disabled children and those who are physically able.

Damastin’s life is back on track now, after getting a prosthetic limb and undergoing rehabilitation at CoRSU, his new limb has afforded him access to the play ground and to take part in games that he covetously longed to be a part of.

Today he goes to school just fine and his captain of the village football team. Fortunately Damastin is one of the many children who are forging their own inclusive communities and games.

In short we can say he has broken the barriers around exclusive games which are known to be played by physically able children.

Break the Barriers – Play Together” Saturday 25th of November 2017,
at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital

What have you done or are you doing to help them have access to their right to play? Let’s have this conversation and remember to use the hash tag #BreaktheBarriers.
Damastin is not asking for permission to be part of these games anymore. That’s why in honour of this year’s international disability day, we at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital have a need to find answers to this big question— is inclusive play possible? Join Davide Naggi, the CEO of CoRSU Rehabilitation hospital and all his team to celebrate the international disability day with a disability sports event themed, “Break the Barriers—Play Together” on Saturday the 25th of November, at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital. And if there is a child with disability living in your community?

For more information, please contact CoRSU

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need any information or clarification about our programs and activities:

CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital,  125 ​ Entebbe Road, ​ Kisubi, Kampala, Uganda​
tel:+256 794 900170  |  info@corsu-hospital.org

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