Sibusiso was established by Henk and Atty Hammer-Roos in 2000. Henk, an experienced tropical doctor, worked as general practitioner until 2001. Atty is a nurse, midwife, and teacher. They both worked for years for Médecins sans Frontières in conflict areas and in refugee camps. Their experiences inspired them to create their own project for a group of vulnerable children in a developing country.
After long research, Atty and Henk started a project for mentally handicapped children in Tanzania; Sibusiso was born. To date, Sibusiso has given 2905 children hope for a better future. 99 children followed the three-month programme in 2016, and 42 young people participated in the six-month social skills programme. 663 children received a total of 3197 physiotherapy sessions.
Message from Sibusiso Management (Sander and Claudia)
All is well with Sibusiso in Tanzania!
The increase in the number of children in the programmes meant that we had to extend the kitchen. Building work began at the end of October 2016; the kitchen will have double the capacity soon in 2017.
We have made steady progress to improve the quality of care for the children in the Sibusiso programmes and their carers. This was made possible by staff on-the-job training given by the hard-working Think Tank volunteers.
Our aim is to work within a new structure, a multidisciplinary team formed around each child and his carer. An unchanging team, consisting of a physiotherapist, social worker, teacher and house mother, does the intake, assessment, training and support while the child and his carer remain at the Centre and thereafter.
It will take some time for the staff to get used to this way of working, so in 2017 we will continue to optimise the new structure. We aim to improve knowledge of the various specialities, communication and documentation.
We also want to pay more attention to planning, evaluation and self-reflection. Several new staff members will join us in January – young Tanzanians keen to work with Sibusiso’s target group. The Sibusiso staff enjoyed a well-earned break, before we reopened our doors and started the new year full of enthusiasm!
The dentists visit
We are Elzeline de Geus and Tom Turk, dentists with an affinity for handicapped patients. We visited Sibusiso from 11-25 October 2016.
This wasn't our first visit; we had spent a week there in 2005. At the time, setting up a dental care project for the Sibusiso children seemed the ideal way to combine working with our target group with our passion for Africa. However, we concluded that there was no need for such a network. Tanzania's water is naturally high in fluoride, which helps to protect teeth and, unlike Dutch children, the children at Sibusiso don't eat sweets which rot their teeth. Gum infections, the other cause of dental problems, are rare in young children, and finally, we were only talking about a very small group of patients.
Eleven years later, we were curious to see how Sibusiso had changed. Sander invited us to do a dental screening of the children and to give a refresher course on dental care to the house mothers and other staff members. This would enable us to assess whether our earlier conclusion, that there would be few dental problems, was justified.
We received generous sponsorship from dental wholesaler Henry Schein and from toothpaste manufacturer Colgate Palmolive, which enabled us to effect professional screening and to replenish the stock of toothpaste and toothbrushes.
Sibusiso management were amazingly flexible. Valance facilitated our training on dental care and common dental problems for a very engaged group of house mothers and teachers. He also facilitated dental checkups for almost all the children. We were surprised how cooperative they were; a comparable group of Dutch kids would have given us much more trouble. Only two young children refused to let us near them, though they probably would have, if they had had time to get used to us. We checked 37 children, aged between 4 and 21, for caries, infections, stained teeth (a result of excess fluoride), missing teeth, potential sources of pain and anything unusual. Only five of them had a condition that required treatment.
Remarkably, in the few cases where there was caries, the holes were very large. Generally, dental care was pretty good. We concluded that the level of dental care and motivation is high. It is up to the mothers of the five children who need treatment to seek it. Sibusiso can help them with this.
Regular checkups and individual dental care programmes are desirable to ensure that these children have clean, functional and pain-free teeth. A clean, sweet-smelling mouth is also an aid to social integration.
It was a joy to see how committed and caring all the staff are, the pleasure they take in their work, and to hear so much laughter.
Salha Chahe is a three-year old autistic girl. She lives in Arusha with her parents and her elder sister.
Salha was born prematurely and spent the first week of her life on a ventilator. She made good progress and was soon sent home. All went well until she contracted pneumonia at the age of twelve months. She was admitted to hospital where oxygen was administered. From that moment, says her mother, she was "floppy" and barely moved.
The doctors couldn't say exactly what was wrong. Her parents took Salha to various hospitals, but nothing helped. It was months before she made even the slightest improvement.
In July 2016, the hospital that was treating Salha referred her to Sibusiso and in September she started the three-month programme. She could barely walk, couldn't speak and just made a lot of noise. She self-harmed and made no contact with anybody.
Salha is much calmer now and understands simple words. She plays with other children and she is walking better. Fortunately, her mother gets a lot of support from her husband and family, but she still finds it very difficult to deal with Salha. She is very happy that Sibusiso is there for her and her daughter, and does her best to apply everything we've taught her to help Salha.
Elisha was born four years ago following a normal pregnancy and easy delivery. We don't know much about the first year of his life, except that he didn't cry at birth. At twelve months, he still couldn't raise his head, and at two years old he was still helpless.
The neighbours put Elisha's family in touch with Sibusiso. He was started on a feeding programme, received regular therapy, home visits from the outreach team and, from January to March 2016, he and his mother took part in the three-month programme. They were given aids including a made-to-measure chair and a walking frame.
When we visited, Elisha's mother was giving birth, but other (family?) members of the community were glad to talk to us and to demonstrate Elisha's progress. They showed us that Elisha can now hold his head up, manipulate toys with both hands and, with a lot of help and encouragement, take a few very shaky steps with his walking frame. The entire community is proud of this little boy.
Elisha still visits the physiotherapy centre regularly and the outreach team visits his home once a month. Mambo is very positive about Elisha's (minor) improvements and that is clearly effective. It seems that everybody in this small Masai community is trying to help the child. An encouraging result, the basis of which lies at the Sibusiso centre, but in which the outreach team has played an essential role to consolidate and expand this acceptance and support.
Debora is seven years old. When she was born in hospital in Dar es Salaam she didn't immediately cry. Her parents realised at once that something was wrong and, indeed, she did not develop as fast as other babies.
In 2013 the family moved to Arusha. Debora was four but she still couldn't sit up. Her parents didn't know where to find help. Her father worked occasionally as a driver, and money was short. Debora was often left alone in the house when her father had work and her mother had to go to market.
In 2015 a neighbour, who also has a mentally handicapped child, saw Debora and brought her and her mother to Sibusiso. In July, the outreach team started visiting the family and Debora came to the centre for therapy. In September, Debora started the three-month programme. She has made amazing progress!
Her mother explains that Debora couldn't sit up properly and couldn't walk unaided. Now she can walk without help, although she wobbles a bit. She can recognise different colours, shapes and even numbers. She is improving across the board. Her mother is delighted and very grateful to the Sibusiso staff for the opportunities that they offer Debora. "God bless you all", says Debora's mother.
Extension of the kitchen
A few years ago we made around 140 meals a day - breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and special food for children who have difficulty swallowing. Today it's over 330.
That is three meals a day for the thirty mothers and children in the three-month programme and the thirty older children in the practical skills programme, plus lunch for fifty staff members and for mothers and children attending outpatient therapy. Lunchtimes stretch the kitchen's capacity to breaking point. Then there are reunion days, parents' days and open days, all of which require catering.
In short, the kitchen needs to be a lot bigger to accomodate over 330 people for lunch. Therefore the extension of the kitchen, worth 16.000 euro, has started. We hope to have the renovation finished in the first quarter of 2017.
Working Visit to Sibusiso
by Ineke van Mierloo and Miriam Roemer
Ineke van Mierloo and Miriam Roemer are both experienced healthcare psychologists for mentally handicapped people. They have done voluntary work for Sibusiso since 2004, helped to establish the Think Tank in 2006 and have visited the centre several times. In November 2016, Sander and Claudia asked them to asses the house visits made by Sibusiso’s social workers.
Every day, two cars, each with a driver and a social worker, visit approximately 16 families. The social worker will already have identified eight children who live near each other. We aim to visit every child once a month, to see how they are getting on in their home environment and to asses whether aids such as walking frames or special chairs are still suitable.
Ineke and Miriam joined the social workers every day for a couple of weeks to get an impression of their working methods. This meant watching, listening, asking questions, discussing issues with the social workers and analysing dossiers. They also studied the forms and checklist used during house visits, preparation, and cooperation with other disciplines at Sibusiso. Finally, they considered the quality of advice given to parents, and how that advice related to the aims of the teachers, therapists and house mothers for stimulating the child’s development.
The outreach teams work extremely hard! It’s not easy to visit so many children a day and offer support to their parents. The social workers have a visible passion for their work.
As well as praise, Ineke and Miriam have also suggested several points for improvement in a report to the Board and management.
Once again, in 2016 many people asked their friends and colleagues to make a donation to Sibusiso in lieu of presents to celebrate births, birthdays, weddings, graduation or retirement. Collections were made in schools, children’s support groups and churches. Our faithful supporters continued to make regular monthly or quarterly payments and we have new donors who have set up a five-year annuity which enables us to plan for the future.
A thousand thanks to you all!
New Board Member Sibusiso Foundation
Anton van Doornmalen is 67 years old. He is married to Riekie, has two daughters, Karin and Anke, two sons-in-law, Lambert and Jan-Willem, and five grandchildren, Caspar, Emma, Maurits, Lieke and Tim.
His sporting hobbies are fitness and tennis, his musical hobbies are singing, playing guitar, giving concerts, producing CDs and songwriting.
Anton joined Rijk Zwaan in 1973, became co-owner and is now president of the advisory council. Rijk Zwaan’s seed production company, Q-Sem, is next door to the Sibusiso centre. From day one, they have been engaged with the centre and have become great neighbours, always willing to help out when they can.
“I have visited Sibusiso at least six times, often with my wife, Riekie. During our last visit, I picked up a guitar and started singing to a group of children and their mothers. When I sang the Dutch song ‘The Owl in the Elm’, everybody joined in, clapping and singing. The ‘cuckoo, cuckoo’ part of the song got everybody going! It was a very special moment – the mothers’ proud faces said it all.
One of Sibusiso’s great achievements is that local people have seen how much progress a handicapped child can make and are less ashamed of having a handicapped child. Parents regularly register their handicapped children for therapy at Sibusiso.”
Sibusiso Foundation is grateful for your concern for the children in Tanzania. We hope that we can continue to rely on your support in 2017.
Sibusiso aims to reduce the number of paper newsletters and to use digital communication as much as possible. If you are reading this newsletter on paper and would be prepared to receive the digital version in the future, please let us know via @email
If you have any questions or comments on the topics raised in this newsletter, please feel free to contact us on @email
The Sibusiso Board and Management