Updated 2 September 2009
It was with the support of Maureen Bennie that Kari Dunn Buron and Joyce Santo were able to visit The World Federation Autistic Day Care Centre. The Autism Asperger Publishing Company (AAPC) provided full financial backing for the visit. The World Federation would like to express their gratitude towards Maureen Bennie for facilitating the visit.
Maureen Bennie describes how this visit became possible:
“In May 2007 at our annual conference in Birmingham, UK, we met two teachers from a school in Tanzania. The women asked us if we could somehow help them with their school in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. They had very little money for teacher training and no one would come to them to give training at the school. Vicki and I felt we had to do something. At dinner that evening with Kari Dunn Buron, author of The Incredible 5 Point Scale and our speaker at the Birmingham conference, we asked her if she would be willing to give two week’s training in May 2008 for the school. She enthusiastically agreed to do it. Our first International Outreach project had officially begun.
Upon our arrival back in Canada, the e-mails and phone calls began. Our first call was to Keith Myles, owner of Autism Asperger Publishing Company (AAPC,) to ask if he would be willing to assist us with sponsorship for training. He said we could count on his support. I told my son’s former preschool teacher, Sherry Reynolds, about the project and she immediately started to raise money for materials for the school. The two teachers supplied a wish list of items needed for the children. Sherry’s efforts raised over $400 for supplies and she also donated a huge array of sensory items and toys. We used her generous monetary donation to purchase a copy of Boardmaker and an array of stationary supplies for the children.
Dr. Abbas, the head of the Board of Directors at the World Federation Autistic Day Care Centre (WFADCC), became our main contact to organize all of the details of this project. Kari Dunn Buron began to plan her programme for the WFADCC. Dr. Abbas also asked Kari to speak at their World Autism Awareness Day on May 24th. As this was a huge undertaking for one person, Joyce Santo, a colleague of Kari’s, came on board in the New Year, and became an integral part of the planning process. Joyce and Kari have travelled to Trinidad every March for many years working in the field of autism so they had a wealth of experience in working in impoverished areas and assisting with autism programmes.
Kari and Joyce made their long journey to Tanzania on May 3rd. The first e-mail we received from Kari on May 4th to say they had arrived also told us Joyce’s hotel room had no air conditioning but the shower worked and Kari’s air conditioning worked but her shower didn’t. Joyce said in an e-mail upon her return, “There were definitely inconveniences but none insurmountable and they are all part of truly experiencing a developing country. Although not always pleasant, we were good sports and had the ability to laugh at the absurdity of some of the situations we found ourselves in. We have a rich bank of shared experiences and stories to tell and were never really in danger. I don't think it would have been the same had we stayed at a Holiday Inn (not that there was one).”
Kari’s relayed these thoughts to us upon her return, “The obstacles… did not override the numerous life changing experiences that we had in Tanzania. Volunteerism done this way offers an experience like no other. Any other Western tourist travelling to Tanzania would never have the opportunity to get to know 15 children with autism from another culture the way we did. That tourist would never have the opportunity to walk down the dirt streets of a village to go to work every morning for two weeks or have the thrill of being able to say good morning to the people they passed in a new and beautiful language. A Western tourist…would not have been given the respect we were given at our little village hotel. They wouldn't have had an old man in the village do their laundry by hand, hang to dry and iron everything with a coal iron.”
After reading about Kari and Joyce’s experiences at the school and in the village, it made me realize how much we have to be thankful for in Canada, particularly the help my two children with autism receive. Sometimes I take things for granted and forget about how the majority of the world lives. Many people don’t have access to a clean, reliable water source, a consistent supply of electricity and endless choices for food, medical attention and information.
Being able to organize this training in Dar es Salaam has been one of the proudest moments Vicki and I have had since we began Autism Awareness Centre Inc. in June 2003. It has been a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to give something back to an area of the world that needed our help. We want to extend our thanks to Keith Myles of APPC and Sherry Reynolds for their generous support of this mission. We especially want to thank Kari and Joyce who volunteered their time, talents and efforts to make this project a reality. Their work made an impact on the school by helping the children and building upon the skills the dedicated teachers had at the school.
I will end with these thoughts from Joyce, “I feel fortunate to have been asked…to support international special education outreach. I believe the format we used in Tanzania has the most possibilities for continued impact on a programme. I do believe we did not just provide them with information but rather, guided them through a process of applying strategies, then revising based on how the students responded. It is this dynamic process that is the essence of becoming a "teacher". I believe we joined them where they were, helped them build on what they had and empowered them to continue to develop their program. It is up there on my list of gratifying life experiences. Thanks so much.”
The World Federation Autistic Day Care Centre would also like to take the opportunity to thank Lady Maureen Bennie, the AAPC and all those individuals that played a role in this successful venture.
Click here to view her report online
For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org