I would like to share with you all the story of the person who inspires me the most. I just returned to the U.S. from 14 months living in Tanzania working with a local organization that provides services to children and youth with disabilities (now looking for a job in DC!). While I was there, I met Shedrack. Shedrack works at another disability organization for youth in Tanzania, but he is also the founder and director of a physiotherapy clinic for adults with disabilities.
It all started because Shedrack realized that when patients at the hospital reach the point where they are able to do physiotherapy, they are discharged. According to World Bank data from 2012, Tanzania has just 0.7 hospital beds and 0.03 physicians per 1000 people, compared with 3 hospital beds and 2.5 physicians per 1000 people in the U.S. Hospitals are overwhelmed and forced to discharge patients once their condition is stable. This leaves patients to return home without regaining any basic mobility; they often develop secondary complications that can be fatal.
Shedrack created a clinic to serve these patients and named it Epignosis Physiotherapy Clinic (EPT). His vision is to have EPT clinics in each district of Tanzania so that every Tanzanian who is in need can access quality rehabilitation services.
People with disabilities account for approximately 15% of the world population, and about 80% of people with disabilities live in low-income countries. EPT is the only clinic providing physiotherapy services that are affordable for all adults in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, an area with a population of 1.64 million people.
The first EPT patient I met was a man named Ahmed. In 2011, Ahmed had a stroke on a business trip to Uganda. After the stroke, he could not stand or walk. When he returned to Tanzania, his wife Miriam took him to a hospital for physical therapy. But the therapy at the hospital was very expensive and Ahmed did not have health insurance. His family spent all of their savings trying to find a doctor who could help him. There are days when they cannot afford food or Ahmed's medication.
Shedrack has now been working with Ahmed for almost two years and visits him at his home three times per week to do exercises with him. Now Ahmed is able to sit up and support himself. He is no longer in pain and sleeps through the night. Recently Ahmed began using a wheelchair and now has the opportunity to go outside for the first time in 6 years. The support that Ahmed and his family have received from EPT is truly life changing.
“It is really important to take a step to do something, even if you have nothing,” Shedrack says. I wanted to share his story to show that anyone really can make a difference. It doesn't have to be starting a clinic. It can be something that seems small, like sending a friend a card or smiling at a stranger or calling your representative. I know it sounds cheesy, but these things truly make a difference. Shedrack tells me, “Life is made up of the things you do every day. Some people wait for the good day to come. But you can make every moment good, and when you look back, you will see that you had good days.”
If you would like to support Shedrack's clinic, you can go to the YouCaring website and search "EPT" and it will be the first result. Thank you for reading his story, I hope it is your inspiration to keep going.