Amani is the head of the beading department of Shanga, the group we partner with in Arusha, Tanzania. People with disabilities are stigmatized, ostracized, and often treated with less dignity and respect that those with typical abilities. Amani's story is one of perseverance, but it is also a story that so beautifully shows that we are truly better together!
Amani was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bone disease, and was in and out of hospital throughout his young life. He grew up without parents and lived with his grandparents in Galapo, Tanzania, before being brought to Hudumaya Walemavu, a rehabilitation and therpy residence in Monduli. Due to his condition, Amani was unable to complete Primary school and lived in fear of further injury every day. His bones were still so fragile that even a fall out of bed could break them. As Amani grew up to be a young teen, his bones began to strengthen and with the help of Sarah Rejman, founder of Plaster House, he was able to attend Olkokola Vocational Training School. Here, he studied tailoring and learned life skills, and eventually moved in to Plaster House, a home in Arusha for children to recover from orthopedic surgery or receive care for disabilities. Amani taught the other children at Plaster House how to work with beads and gained many independent skills that would allow him to become ready for employment.
In April of 2013, Amani was hired at Shanga, which is the group we partner with in Arusha. The first time I met Amani was in 2014, while I was teaching in Arusha, and couldn't believe what a positive, and obviously competitive spirit he had. When I launched Zuri, Shanga was the first group I new I wanted to partner with because of their mission to educate their community about special needs and to provide jobs (with wonderful working conditions and living wages) to men and women who might otherwise be ostracized. One of the aspects of his job that Amani likes best is design. Since starting his job at Shanga, he says the biggest change has been his increased independence. Because of his job, he was able to move out of Plaster House and live in his own house! Amani dreams of creating his own business where he would employ disabled people and is planning to buy land this year to start working towards his dream. I just love thinking about the ripple effect we can have when we use our purchasing power for good!
Amani is also quite an athlete, and will be competing in the Kilimanjaro Half Marathon for the third time this year. He practices every day and is serious about competitive sports. He also enjoys playing table tennis and says he loves beating his friends without disabilities!