Meet Neema's deaf football team: Neema Crafts FC. This months blog is about the great work our football team is doing in the local community. Through play.ing football they are helping to gently challenge prevailing negative stereotypes about people with disabilities For a few years now, they have been playing local Iringa teams and and surprising them with their skills and communication on the pitch. However, last year the team began to use their footballing skills to impact the rural communities across the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.
Each month, the team have been travelling out to far off villages to play local village teams but also to bring a message to these rural communities: "Don't hide your disabled children, but given them the chance to shine".
Nothing draws a crowd here quite as well as a football match and especially if it is a visiting team. Many villagers are intrigued too when they hear about the 'wabubu' a derogatory term for the deaf. Initially, they come to laugh and poke fun at such a spectacle, but when they see this team is giving their own a good game, they stay to see more.
After the match Ally, the captain, will talk to the crowd (via a translator).Thanking them for their welcome, he'll also tell them his story of becoming deaf at the age of 8, but being given the opportunity to learn through his primary and secondary schools and to demonstrate his ability through Neema Crafts.
Sadly, many deaf and physically disabled children are not even given the chance to get a primary eduction and are shut away at home all day because they are considered to be subject to a curse and a shame on the family.
Ally's story is often followed up by a testimony from a physically disabled member of staff too, such as Claud. Claud speaks with authority about how he has become a valuable asset to hiscommunity because he was given the chance to learn a skill and earn his own living.
These stories and the match combine to give a powerful message to villagers that their disabled children are worth investing into and giving opportunities. "Who knows," says Claud "Perhaps one day your disabled child will be looking after you"