Tanzania in Mbeya under AbleChildAfrica and Child Support Tanzania

Jean Westmacott (from PFSE) and Renate Hallett, a paediatric physiotherapist and CPA trainer were joined by 2 Special Needs teachers from Malawi; Mr Dexter Muyila from Chitipa and Mr Keplon Somba from Rumphi.

Child Support Tanzania organised for Teachers to come for some training when including children with disabilities in mainstream schools. We covered topics about coping in class, and the fact that children will have differing needs and special resources in making the learning process easier. The Teachers from Malawi had tips and strategies from their work in their schools in Malawi.



Paper Furniture goes to teach in Wales!

Disability in Wales and Africa (DWA) is a consortium of organisations working on projects mainstreaming disability and development. One of the projects is in Molo, Kenya on ‘getting disabled children into school’. Jean and Libby from Paper Furniture had given a talk on Appropriate paper-based technology for DWA last year. They had pictures and items showing how booster seats, chairs and easels can make all the difference to children who struggle to sit and stand, enabling them to write and read and get on with active learning in the classroom. So it was decided that some training was needed and Paper Furniture ended up with a request to come and teach in Wales, for the people going on projects to Africa and for people from L’Arche (an international Federation of communities where people with and without learning disabilities live and work together as the community in Brecon are working on projects to offer people with learning disabilities in the area the opportunity of more meaningful employment).
So 7 people went from Paper Furniture all involved in helping 8 people learn how to make useful items from recycled cardboard.
Report from Sumi Gadd
When I offered our names to go to Wales to train people from 'L'Arche, I afterwards thought -- what have I done? After my husband retired I try not to land him with chores he does not fancy. I told him that if he is not happy, just tell me and we will not go again. It all turned out so well he is already looking forward to the next trip. This time I will keep quiet and let him volunteer
Where travelling is concerned, if anybody mentions satnav our reply is not very favourable. We still rely on reading the map and our golden rule is ----when a journey should take one hour, add another for getting lost. We justify it by saying that you see the best of a country by getting lost.
However the trip to Brecon village hall was so easy using Libby's foolproof directions. We also had Stuart Cory with us keeping an eye on the route. At four we followed another group to the barn. After a drive through rugged country side we came to the converted barn, so tastefully done with all modcon’s, and among snow topped hills, we almost felt we were in Switzerland. It was so homely with a log fire, large sitting room and two tellies. There were all grown-ups, yet it was surprising no one got into each other’s hair.
Most evenings we could either read, watch telly, or rest quietly. I cannot on any account mention Wales without thinking of the 
food!! I am not exaggerating. On the first day Margaret's shepherds pie was so welcome. I also learnt that one can make a very tasty vegetable pie if some veg is left over. Normally veg lies around in my fridge looking tired. On Tuesday my husband made his spaghetti without any help from me. Camilla's quiche the next day was a masterpiece. I normally buy a readymade one, add cheese and bacon to it and one look at it and Chris says" not for me thanks" if I mention making it at home his reply is" no way, I would rather have an egg on toast". It was very satisfying to see his plate wiped clean and he even loved the base which Camilla had made with whole meal flour. Julia's tacos on Thursday were just out of this world. You would never catch me having puréed avocado with mince meat, onions, tomatoes and salad all thrown in together, yet it was so tasty. I can only visualise mince in beef burger, kebab, shepherd’s pie, moussaka, and chilli beans. Now I add tacos to my list. From Paper Furniture volunteers you always learn something new, and not always related to furniture.
We all got on so well. The person who did the cooking was quite willing to do it herself or with little help from whoever offered. We even made our own sandwiches daily. Everyday ran so smoothly. Every time I went to stack the dishwasher somebody else had already done it (I am not making a good excuse for dodging a chore,  I did not time it so perfectly honest).
By the way everybody kept quiet when Chris watched Coronation Street.
Daily we worked in Brecon Westenders hall. The town is very popular with craft shops, coffee shops and a cathedral. In lunch hour one could walk into the town to browse. The people who came from L'Arche were so keen to learn. They had already made a drying holder which is used to dry the pasted layers of cardboard. This time I learnt the importance of drying cardboard properly by seeing the water that had collected in the dehumidifier during the night. Normally Jean and Libby do the basic stage and when we go to Mc Neill's, Unit 4, in Medstead. At Mc Neill's we see it ready to be cut. Now I realised how much effort goes in careful preparation which makes the cardboard so strong and long lasting. I have often thought when I make items for my personal use I will not bother with the drying out stage. Now I realise why the wellie boot box  I made at home went out of shape.  
By Tuesday we started making stools, standing frames, sitting chair for sending abroad, a tall stool with a shelf for Hilary' husband and of course The Guitar Coffee Table. 
In all we made nine complete items by Friday. For me the highlight of the week was Margaret. I was on the next table to her and watched her measuring the guitar very meticulously. On Tuesday I thought " she is still measuring it”. By Wednesday the templates appeared - still did not make much sense. But suddenly there were the cardboard pieces; all cut out and fitting so perfectly. There was a whole group of admirers wondering how that had been possible. Dominik, being a perfectionist, tried to see if it wobbled. I thought "not with Margaret's careful measurements". It shows how important it's to take measurements patiently. Once the pieces fitted the guitar coffee table was ready and so beautiful that Dominik said he would not even paint it. He felt it looked perfect as it was. Margaret has gained an admirer - me. The whole idea of the guitar coffee table was born because the person with learning difficulties who came from L'Arche was not at all interested in a stool or a chair. We were told he lives for his guitar. So Margaret thought "why not". It is amazing how ideas are born and the shape they take. If ever any idea seemed difficult everybody would get together and pool all suggestions together. I personally feel that since we are using donated cardboard we can be adventurous and try new plans.

I still miss the people we met. Besides people from L'Arche there was Hilary, who has already gone to Kenya to learn and to support therapists and teachers with her knowledge and experience as a speech therapist. She had organised the hall. We met Tina(from Paper Furniture Monday group) who had found the barn where we stayed. Deana joined us for three days. She had been to Zambia and what she saw there spurned her to form a group "Friends of Monze" with the help of Welsh people. She will be going there regularly. Julia from The Netherlands was so full of fun and laughter. Camilla was the clever cook. Stuart is a dab hand with the camera. I have seen his collection of cards and the wall hangings. Jean and Margaret were always at hand to give assistance.

All the volunteers get together to help, advise, discuss and guide each other. Deana was worried that her standing frame might not be ready by the weekend. That is the characteristic of cardboard furniture. When you start making something, you wonder, when it will be completed, how it will turn out, will it be useful, and funny enough it is always successful and strong. Take example of the guitar coffee table.

This trip has been a learning curve for me. There was so much laughter and easy going atmosphere at the hall, yet the production did not suffer.  We have also got a request from L'Arche to go again to see how they utilise whatever they learnt from us.

Will I go back? Of course. Would I encourage anybody else to join? Without doubt - YES.
If there is anybody sitting at home feeling, they have never attempted craftwork, art, drawing?  Please pop in to see us at Mc Neill's Unit four, you never know how precious your time and contribution of ideas will be. My husband told me for thirty years not to ask him to put up a picture nail because he is adamant he cannot tell one end of a hammer from the other. Yet in Wales I heard him saying to Julia "let us put corner irons first". I have to explain corner irons does not involve metal and he does not have to use a hammer either. And the furniture is very strong. 
I have often wondered how many people sit at home with spare time on their hands and getting bored but because they have convinced themselves they are definitely not good at craft work or as my husband says “not arty”. Yet if they put themselves to it they would discover their own hidden talents and with the type of materials we use it would not be a costly hobby either.



St Martin Disability Programme in Nyahururu, Kenya has a far-reaching community programme where the community is supported to find and help people living with disability. They had been thinking bout an APT training for some time as CPA ran an Elementary course for them in 2010.

Timothy Kiragu (in green shirt) had come on a CPA APT training in 2009 and so he facilitated with Margaret Balcombe, Jean and Kennett Westmacott


This was a record - 23 big boards made in one day. It meant that all 20 participants took home coffee tables or a wedge that they had made from our pre-made boards and... they made chairs, trays, wedges and a standing frame for the selected children and there was enough board for everyone who had made a chair to take home the pieces to make a standing frame and everyone who had made a standing frame had the pieces to get started on making a chair.
After making their own coffee tables and painting with earth paint they were divided into groups. Each group worked on made-to-measure equipment for a child chosen by Rachael, the physiotherapist.
One example

This quietly spoken young girl likes learning English particularly. She uses a wheel chair but keeps slipping out of it and her arms became particularly tired. Her new APT chair needed a number of adaptations to position her so she could write. She was very happy with the result and the group certainly learnt a lot about making a chair and making adaptations/modifications.




A joint physiotherapy and equipment making course was be run by HoCePa - Hope for Cerebral Palsy, Uganda, a parents organization. Two physiotherapists Renate Hallett and Liz Hardinge ran the first part of the training course and Joy Hobbs followed with teaching how to do APT


Learning to use his hands with Renate while strengthening his legs!

Making APT boards with Joy.


Ghana 2011

The aims

  1. Follow-up on 2 equipment making workers who are moving into small container workshops in Accra

2. Also the launch of the film made for CPA by Purple Fields Productions


Kenya 2010




In June 2010 – 3 people went from PFSE to run a course in the coast region in Kenya. The ‘Tiwi Handicapped Group’ are learning to make useful chairs for the disabled children they are helping.




Malawi 2010

In August 2010 we went to teach part 2 of a combined course (therapist teaching then the equipment makers) for Special Needs Teachers in the Southern region of Malawi.

Preparation for Ghana and Uganda  

Renate Hallett, a Paediatric physiotherapist, came and gave all Paper Furniture volunteers going to Ghana and Uganda plus interested others a day's training on cerebral palsy and positioning. Renate was going to Uganda first so she collected the Paper Furniture items made to help with the teaching (see photograph). Joy followed her to teach the APT equipment making