A snapshot of disability in Africa — ‘Developing Lives’

8 January 2016

Developing LivesUplifting photographs from development projects supporting disabled people in Africa are being exhibited in London this month.

Developing Lives at London’s gallery@oxo reflects the lives of people with disabilities in Kenya, Tanzania and Sierra Leone. The photos show people supported by pioneering educational and business projects run by charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.

The images were taken by up-and-coming photographer Hamish Roberts — who is profoundly deaf — and internationally renowned photographer Jenny Matthews.

The exhibition provides a vivid insight into the lives of disabled people in developing countries in Africa who are overcoming social, cultural and financial challenges to receive an education and earn a living. The photos show lives affected by disease, conflict and poverty, but also stories of hope, struggle, independence and achievement against the odds.

Hamish, 25, travelled to Kenya and Hombolo Makulu, Miyuji and Changombe in Tanzania where his knowledge of Swahili sign language helped to break down communication barriers, particularly with deaf children.

He said: ‘I’ve been to Africa quite a few times and I’ve seen how badly disabled people can sometimes be treated. Leonard Cheshire Disability has a positive approach, focused on bringing out the best in people in challenging circumstances.’

Jenny has worked as a photographer since 1982. She travelled to Freetown, Kabala, Kono and Bo in Sierra Leone. One of the most moving experiences Jenny recalls is going into an integrated school, where disabled and non-disabled children are taught side by side in the classroom.

She said: ‘In the past children with disabilities wouldn’t get to go to school, they would be locked up at home or kept in the compound. They would be seen as a burden on the community but with integrated education, children with disabilities are made part of the classroom and it was just heart rendering to see the children caring for one another.’

People with disabilities make up 15 per cent of the world’s population and are one of the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups within society. They are often denied their most basic human rights — cut off from education, employment and healthcare. Many live in extreme poverty.

Developing Lives is raising awareness and funds to support Leonard Cheshire’s work across Africa and Asia. To support our international work, please visit www.leonardcheshire.org/international

Media enquiries

For more information and interview requests, email Afsheen Latif or call 020 3242 0389 or 07903 949 388.

Notes to editors

Exhibition details

Developing Lives exhibition is open from Wednesday 20 January to Sunday 24 January 2016 at gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH. Opening times are 11am to 6pm daily. gallery@oxo is owned and managed by Coin Street Community Builders.