The Reality of Being Disabled in Africa – and How You Can Help

Having a disability is hard anywhere in the world. But it is especially hard in Africa.

Human Rights Watch examines what happens to people with disabilities when conflict intensifies in the Central African Republic.

“Fewer than 5% of adults living with disabilities across Africa are able to read or write. People living with disabilities deserve, need and want the chance to fully participate in and contribute to their community, and education is an important step in helping them do so” -Africa Educational Trust

“70 million people worldwide need a wheelchair. 80% of disabled people in developing countries live in poverty. 90% of disabled children in the developing world do not go to school” -Uhambo

People living with disabilities in Africa face a great number of challenges and barriers that profoundly impact their day-to-day lives:

  • Community education, awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities is limited.
  • Families can be embarrassed or overwhelmed by disability and keep children or relatives with disabilities at home.
  • Many people living with disabilities in Africa are faced with neglect and abuse in their household.
  • Widespread poverty means the needs of ‘healthy’ children are prioritized.
  • Conflict increases the number of people with disabilities, while decreasing the available support.
  • Lack of care, community programs, services, medical devices and medical support to treat or manage disabilities.

These challenges make accessing education, employment and medical care extremely difficult. Negative attitudes combined with poverty and a lack of support creates a situation where:

  • Families do not send children with disabilities to school.
  • Children and adults living with disabilities are thought incapable of learning and ignored or discriminated against in classrooms or in a work environment
  • Teachers and employers do not know how to incorporate children and adults living with disabilities into their classes or work environment.
  • Schools lack the resources and infrastructure to accommodate the learning needs of children living with disabilities.
  • Lack of transportation to schools or work for those with physical disabilities.

How you can help:

We have had the pleasure of meeting with the amazing people who run Uhambo and Crutches4Africa, two Colorado based non-profits that work to  empower and transform the lives of people in Africa with disabilities. We are inspired by their work, and want to spread the word. If you have crutches, wheelchairs, or other mobility devices, please contact  Crutches4Africa.

If you would like to donate to Uhambo, a non-profit that provides social workers, therapists and program facilitators to children with disabilities in South Africa, please contact Uhambo.


Where to Buy Sustainable African Products in Colorado

Africa in the Rockies supports sustainable African products sold in a fair way – with the goal being for artisans to get as much of the profit from their goods as possible. It is unfortunate that many goods made in Africa are sold at a dramatic mark-up without much of the profit benefiting African artisans and workers. 

Below is a list of Colorado-based companies that sell African products in a fair way, aiming to empower the people who create the products. Do you have a business that sells sustainable African products? We’d love to hear from you. 

Zambeezi Lip Balm – Located in Boulder, Colorado, this lip balm is made with beeswax from Zambia and is fair-trade, with the workers who help create the product earning a fair wage. Additionally, the company’s profits are used to benefit African communities.

Agile International  – Based in Boulder, Agile sells bags made by women in Mali. The profits are used to buy land, grow food and feed families. Agile empowers women by breaking the cycle of poverty that most women in West Africa face.

Yobel Market – Yobel Market sells products that empower artisans in 21 nations through fair wages and ethical employment. Be sure to check them out in Colorado Springs.  

Africa Bags. – Africa Bags are a non-profit organization that sells hand-crafted bags made in Malawi. Volunteers help market the bags in America. The profits from each sale are sent back to Malawi.

African Market Baskets – Based in Boulder Colorado, African Market Baskets creates handcrafted Bolga baskets in Ghana. Proceeds from the sale of the baskets provide healthcare, education and financial support to over 1,000 African villagers and their families.

Momentum – A boutique located at 1625 Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado, that sells fair-trade items handmade by artisans from all over the world, including Africa.

Bead for Life – Based in Boulder, Bead for Life has created numerous ‘Street Business Schools’ that train business-savvy women in Africa living in poverty about how to run their own businesses, selling fair-trade beaded products to an international market.

Zimbo Arts Co-Op – Based in Fort Collins, Zimbo Arts strives to give Zimbabweans the education needed to lift themselves out of poverty. Through the development of Art Cooperatives, they create steady and stable employment for struggling families creating culturally traditional artworks. The art created in the Co-Ops is not only beautiful but helps fund a number of community programs around Zimbabwe.

Madagascar Hat Company – A nonprofit company that creates eco-friendly hats made from sustainable natural raffia. A portion of the sales is donated to Hope for Madagascar

Elephant Coffees – Based in Denver, Elephant Coffees is committed to promoting equitable, cooperative and sustainable practices. They source directly from producers and cooperatives in the highlands of Kenya and East Africa.

Zimbabwe’s elections and the country’s historic transition. – Coverage by NPR

Colorado has numerous ties to Zimbabwe. Kutandara, Tafura Sculpture, Kuda Vana Partnership,  and  Nokuthula to name just a few.  Any month of the year you’ll find Zimbabwean music and dance performed all around the front range.

Many Colorado faith-based organizations also have ties to aid programs in Zimbabwe.

With that in mind, we thought we’d share some interviews and podcasts we came across.

The following are from Ari Shapiro a co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered who recently traveled to Zimbabwe to cover the historic elections taking place on July 30th.

7 Great African Travel Podcasts

Whether you have an upcoming trip to Africa or you have since returned, chances are, Africa has your attention. Stay connected and learn about this incredible, diverse, multifaceted, colorful, wild continent with some intriguing podcasts. Even if you have already left Africa, Africa does not need to leave you.

1.The Amateur Traveler

Chris Christensen hosts an online travel show where he showcases numerous travel destinations and the must see spots in his travels. From wonders of the world to off-the-beaten-track destinations and places of interest, Chris’ adventures are a delight to share. Be sure to check out his travels to Seychelles, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, Cape Town and Ethiopia.

2.Essentials for a Great Overland Safari

Traveling duo and couple Hannah and Adam Lukaszewicz share their stories and experiences in traveling all over the African continent. They offer great country-specific tips and heartwarming stories that detail their enviable wanderings!

3.Rethinking Lion Conservation

A part of the National Geographic Big Cats initiative, experts weigh in on the conservation of lions in Africa. Sparked by the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, biologists and conservationists offer a fresh perspective.

4.Wild Eye – The Wildlife Photography Podcast – Episodes 1-6

Wild Eye has put together a fantastic series of 6 podcasts that cover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about taking wildlife photos. From the best places to go, the right equipment to use, to how to make a career from your images; this series is a must for any shutterbug traveling to Africa!

5.Conde Nast – Why You Should Travel to Africa Now: Travelogue Podcast

Conde Nast’s editors offer their wealth of knowledge on how to best travel the African continent. Africa offers more than safaris; activities like wine tastings, surfing, shopping and are discussed. Get to know the best places to go and start planning your trip!

6.Life on Safari by Richard Field

5 episodes of safari guides and conservationists sharing their tales of adventure, conservation of species, humour, and new experiences in some of the most remote, wild places in Africa.

7.Rick Steves – Travel Portraits; Artist’s Safari

Rick Steves interviews portrait photographer Phil Borges, who offers great advice on how to get a great shot of the various people encountered along the way in travelling; wildlife artist Fred Krakowiak and his amazing stories of wild animals and how to best observe wildlife, and travel writer Francis Tapon, and his intention to visit every country in Africa. Unfortunately, Steves overemphasizes the drama of Africa , creating problematic blanket statements that cover the entire, diverse continent. However, Steve’s podcast is still an interesting and informative one, with extraordinary guests.