Butterfly Africa August 2013 - Page 34

BA: Before we start, please tell us a little bit about your team. Who are you?

DT: George Neequaye is a rising senior at Ashesi University, Nana Akowuah is a rising senior at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College, Efua Kumea Asibon is a rising sophomore at Swarthmore College and Sedinam Worlanyo is a rising freshman at Swarthmore College. Simply put, we are a group of people who saw a problem and were blessed to be given the hearts and means to implement a solution.

BA: For people who might not know, could you please explain what Dislabelled does?

DT: Dislabelled seeks to break the stigma attached to people with disabilities and to improve the Special Education System in Ghana. We launched our debut project at the Autism Awareness Care and Training Centre in Kokomlemle this summer. During this summer program we taught the students robotics, videography, photography, dance, art and crafts. We donated learning and teaching materials to the Centre and painted a mural. Our ultimate aim is to empower people with special needs by improving the quality of education they receive. We support Special Schools by improving their infrastructure and by providing these schools with technologically advanced learning and teaching materials suited to special needs.

The other phase of Dislabelled is the advocacy and awareness phase. We hope to use all possible means to advocate for the rights of people with Special needs in Ghana. For us it is imperative that every Ghanaian is made aware of the appalling conditions for people with Special needs in the country. People must also understand how intellectual and physical differabilities arise and how to relate with people with differabilities.

BA: How did Dislabelled start and what were the most important factors that drove you to get it started?

DT: We realized the pervasiveness of people with Special Needs begging on the streets of Accra so we decided to probe into why so many people with differabilities were unemployed. We visited some Special Schools in Accra and were surprised by the harsh learning conditions and the almost non-existing learning and teaching materials even in the capital city. We also visited the Special Education Unit of the Ghana Education Service and interviewed teachers, children and government officials to find the root cause of the neglect of Special Education and how we could help. The research work helped us a lot because we were able to understand the problem and the system. This greatly aided the solution phase. It further made us more familiar with people in the system and built our network. That was really beneficial.

BA: It is very evident that you are driven, determined people. How did you get this determination and drive?

DT: When you have the end in mind and you understand the gravity of the problem at hand, there is no way you can lack determination and drive…honestly. God encourages us to defend and support the marginalised in society and that is what we strive to achieve.

BA: How did you come up with the name Dislabelled?

DT: We were initially called ‘threefourteen’ but we wanted a name that better encapsulated our mission. Mr. John Kamau, our high school teacher, suggested ‘Dislabeled’ and we felt like it aptly encompassed our goals and values. We however realized that ‘Dislabeled’ existed already but we loved the name. So we decided to use ‘Dislabelled’ instead to prevent copyright issues in the future and to help us develop an original brand.

BA: You are butterflies, already flapping your wings in your community. What advice do you have for the youth who feel marginalised and without hope for this continent?

DT: ‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds...’ It all begins from your mentality. Your negative mentality can smother your dreams and fog your creativity and abilities. Don’t let the flood of pessimism around you erase your hopes. There is opportunity everywhere. Go get it!

BA: What is your vision for the future of this continent?

DT: We hope to reach out to more Special schools all over Africa. We are planning to branch into employment, architecture and health sectors. Collaboration is also very important so we are constantly seeking to partner with like-minded individuals and organizations from various parts of Africa. If you would love to collaborate with us, we would also love to!!

BA: Our theme of the month for the magazine is activism and how, via the change we make, we are activists for a better future, for a brighter Africa. What change do you want to create through Dislabelled?

DT: We want to empower people with intellectual and physical differabilities to become useful citizens. Moreover, we hope to help people understand the need to support people with Special needs.

BA: What is the one thing that has kept you going the whole time, the one thing that you have clung onto to keep you going?

DT: The immensity of the problem at hand. We would be wicked to be fully aware of the harsh treatment that people with Special needs suffer and do nothing about it.

BA: To start an organisation, a few challenges do occur which might seek to make the development of that idea difficult. Did/do you have any challenges and how did/do you seek to overcome them?

DT: Fundraising was a major challenge for us. We applied for a lot of grants and sponsorship but since we had nothing to show that we were actually serious about Dislabelled, we were denied them all. We then made our button badges, which sold out quite fast and set-up our blog. People started to take us more seriously. Launching our crowd-funding page, which gave us $9000+ (from online and offline donations) also helped us a lot. We were awarded a Swarthmore Foundation Grant in May. Persistence is an invaluable tool. Keep persisting and look for alternative methods to overcome your challenges. Keep Pushing and don’t be scared or shy to ask for help.

Meeting DISLABELLED

Dislabelled is an organisation that seeks to break the stigma attached to people with disabilites. They recently took out time to explain their vision to Butterfly Africa.

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