I contracted polio when I was six years old and ever since I have had to use a stick to support one of my legs. When I first became ill, I just used to crawl around and I wasn’t able to visit friends. My parents sent me to the doctor regularly and I made it to a local primary school, but only for the first three years. Getting around was really difficult.
I could have despaired in my last job. I had to collect stones from the mountains nearby to make concrete. It was exhausting but I did it for five years anyway. There was little choice. I started to work there as soon as I could use a stick to support myself, as it required slightly less walking than other jobs. Even then, I had to crawl a lot of the time because I could not carry the heavy stones and walk with a stick at the same time.
I heard about Neema Crafts through a relative and I knew it was going to improve my life. I was on the waiting list for work for nearly 2 years when the director came to find me to say I had work. I was so happy to join and I enjoyed the work instantly. I started in the solar panel workshop and after a while I began to feel better in myself and gradually, my life improved.
Where I’d struggled with money and long hours before, I could now afford school fees for two of my children. My third child is sponsored through the centre’s child sponsorship scheme. For the first time I could pay rent and bills and afford other daily essentials. Tanzanian life is still stressful – my husband is now sick and I have to look after him. We never have lots of money, but I know I’m better off than I was before especially as I have almost finished building my own house on land I have bought with help from Neema Crafts.
I hope there’ll come a time when the government and banks can provide disabled people with loans (the bank would not lend to me because I was disabled.) I think we’re starting to get onto an equal level with non-disabled people here in Tanzania, but there’s still some distance to overcome.