Two former SIT Study Abroad students found each other while working to break down barriers for people with disabilities. Jennifer Allen, who studied on SIT’s Comparative Education and Social Change program in Chile and Argentina in 2010, and Kate Condon, who studied on the SIT program Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages in fall 2009, connected through their mutual interest in forming a program for people with intellectual disabilities in Uganda.
There are an estimated 2.5 million children with disabilities in Uganda, a nation undergoing significant economic and social transformations. Vulnerable children, including orphans and children with disabilities, face numerous challenges there. These children are typically stigmatized within their communities, where beliefs that disability is contagious, or is caused by witchcraft or the mother, are prevalent. Because of this stigma, approximately 98 percent of children with disabilities are kept out of school, locked and hidden away, abused, neglected, and sometimes even killed.
Kate, co-founder of embraceKulture, works throughout Uganda to break down this stigma, train teachers, increase communities’ sensitivity, promote inclusion, and much more.
Growing up, Kate was involved with Best Buddies, an organization providing opportunities and increasing inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities through partnerships with volunteers. She realized the organization could help her efforts at embraceKulture by spreading awareness, advocacy, and social inclusion through one-to-one friendships in Uganda. When she reached out to Best Buddies, she was connected with Jennifer Allen, the organization’s director of international programs.
In August, the two met in Entebbe, Uganda, to develop a Best Buddies program implementation plan and to visit the schools where friendships have already begun. While both women recognize there is a lot of work ahead of them, they both feel this new partnership is a positive step toward forming a more inclusive society for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities in Uganda.