Mixed Blessings in Bidi Bidi: The Summer 2023 Vital Link Newsletter

Mixed Blessings in Bidi Bidi: The Summer 2023 Vital Link Newsletter


Welcome to the Summer 2023 edition of the Vital Link newsletter.

Download your copy to:

  • Read all about our Wheels for the World work in Uganda and India
  • Find out the fantastic Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility talk
  • Hear about 2023's Disability Awareness Sunday plans
  • Learn about volunteering opportunities, our new Regional Co-ordinators and much more...

Please contact us on 01372 749955 or email info@throughtheroof.org to get a copy in any other format

Or read it onscreen here with the Joomag viewer...

Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility - video now available

Dr Naomi Graham, wearing overalls with 'Growing Hope' written on the front, stands smiling in front of a recently scrubbed chalk blackboard

The video from our online event 'Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility' with Dr Naomi Graham of Growing Hope is now available on YouTube (@TTRChangesLives): just click the play button on the 'Watch on YouTube' video below.

We were delighted to welcome Naomi to speak, as she took us through a whole range of practical and thoughtful suggestions for using the senses in church activities, and well as including everyone's different sensory processing strategies. 

If you don't have time to watch it all (talk 25 mins. questions 18 mins), then below the video link is a summary of what Naomi said.

Here are the resources Naomi mentions in her talk, plus some extra thoughts about sensory processing from the questions submitted in the session...

Summary of the talk: Making Sense of our Senses 

Naomi explained that Growing Hope works with children with additional needs. She shared how everyone likes to start the day with a sense of calm. However, people with additional needs may find it difficult to find the calm they need, as they can struggle to process the input from their senses. 

Naomi used stories from the Bible and her own experience to explain how God speaks through each of 8 senses – the usual five, plus balance, body awareness, and internal sense – which includes our sense of God. She emphasised the importance of understanding each person’s sensory experience – including children with additional needs in the church – and seeing everyone as Jesus sees them.

Naomi got participants to try sensory processing experiments, such as writing a sentence without your feet touching the floor; these brought alive how much our senses affect us. She explained how particular sensory experiences can be calming or alerting – such as loud or quiet noises, and geometric or irregular patterns. But Naomi explained it’s important to ask each individual what helps them – she shared an ‘about me’ form, that people can fill in with their sensory preferences – such as whether they need a quiet space, or struggle to sit still. We heard how the senses can be used to enhance worship – including the huge boost to concentration created by movement, through ‘body awareness’; as well as the importance of using images and objects as well as words, to help everyone understand.

During the discussion time, people showed enthusiasm about using sensory experiences within their churches, and raised questions which Naomi answered later. A poll of those present showed great support for disability inclusion in church, but there is a great need for sensory processing information and resources, with 80% asking for these. Through the Roof hopes to help with this in future!

Naomi suggested simple tips for churches, including quick wins such as providing ear defenders and pipe cleaners as simple fidget toys. She explained how vital church support can be for families and children with additional needs, including the strong link between trauma and sensory processing issues, with movement and physical activity helping heal and calm. So it is important that we educate the church not to judge people for using fidget toys or moving around. Growing Hope provide free therapy to children with additional needs, as well as supporting parents, carers and siblings. Follow this link to read the story of Growing Hope in Naomi’s blog.

Brenda Murray, one of Through the Roof's new Regional Roofbreaker Co-ordinators who helped facilitate the event, said “We look forward to making connections with all those who attended to ensure people have the resources so everyone can be part of God’s family.”

Disability Awareness Sunday in YOUR Church


Let's celebrate it in every church!

In 2023 we'll be celebrating Disability Awareness Sunday on Sunday 17th September. It'll be a great time for churches to join together across the UK (and even some internationally). If this date is not convenient, please choose an alternative date to suit your church. Any Sunday can be Disability Awareness Sunday!

Here are some free materials to help you plan and celebrate Disability Awareness Sunday at your church...

  • We've produced a new pack for 2023, focussing on 'The Unique Gifts God Gives Us' with a short video, a suggested service outline and free postcards available for everyone who attends.
  • If this is your first Disabiilty Awareness Sunday, we recommend the initial resource based on the Luke chapter 5 'through the roof' theme which contains a full range of videos, key messages, children's and youth ideas, prayers, and much more.

To download either of these packs, please complete this form: 

    Find out more about how Through the Roof can help your church include disabled people more by following this link

    Order your Disability Awareness Sunday postcards

    There is a postcard linked to ‘The unique gifts God gives us’ theme available to give out to everyone attending the service – with some of Ashleigh’s quotes from the video, and ideas of how people can follow-up after the service.

    You can request as many postcards as you would like by filling in the form below. These are free of charge and will be sent out to you by post – so do be sure to get in touch and request them in good time.

      Disability and the Church ABC: Cardiff

      A postcard flyer for the Access event in Cardiff, it shows the Cardiff bay, with instructions in English and Welsh for attending  the event in June 2023.

      Fe'ch gwahoddir i ddathliad!
      You are invited to a celebration!

      Mwynhewch addoliad hygyrch
      • Enjoy accessible worship
      Clywch straeon ffydd gan bobl leol
      • Hear faith stories from local people
      Casglwch adnoddau i’ch eglwys
      • Gather resources for your church

      Digwyddiad am ddim / Free event

      Dyddiad/Date: Dydd Sadwrn 24 Mehefin 2023 / Sat 24th June 2023
      Amser/Time: 10am (i ddechrau 10:30am) tan 3:30pm / 10am (10:30 start) to 3:30pm
      Lleoliad/Venue: Highfields Church Monthermer Road Cathays Cardiff CF24 4QW

      Dewch i gael eich ysbrydoli i alluogi mwy o bobl anabl i gael mynediad i, perthyn a chymryd rhan yng nghenhadaeth yr eglwys leol.

      Come and be inspired and equipped as we continue the journey to enable more disabled people to access, belong and participate in the mission of the church in Cardiff.

      Fe'ch gwahoddir i ddathliad! Mwynhewch addoliad hygyrch. Clywch straeon ffydd gan bobl leol. Casglwch adnoddau i’ch eglwys.

      You are invited to a celebration! Enjoy some accessible worship, hear experiences from local people, share ideas and gather resources to use in your church and community.

      Darperir te, coffi a lluniaeth ysgafn. Dewch â phecyn bwyd gyda chi.

      Tea coffee and light refreshments will be provided. Please bring a packed lunch.

      Mae'r digwyddiad am ddim, ond cofrestrwch fel y byddwn ni'n gwybod faint o bobl i’w disgwyl.

      The event is free, but please register so we know how many people to expect.

      Rhowch wybod os oes gennych unrhyw ofynion o ran mynediad.

      Please let us know if you have any specific access requirements.

      Os oes gennych unrhyw gwestiynau am y digwyddiad neu'r broses archebu, cysylltwch â katie@throughtheroof.org neu 07857 896592. Bydd dehongliad Iaith Arwyddion Prydain ar gael ar y diwrnod.

      Contact Katie at Through the Roof katie@throughtheroof.org or 07857 896592. British Sign Language interpretation will be available on the day.

      Cewch hyd i fapiau a chyfarwyddiadau i'r lleoliad drwy ddilyn y ddolen hon

      Find maps and directions to the venue by following this link

      Wheelsblog – Uganda, Yumbe 2023: Blog 5

      The team members sat wearing hats and sunglasses while they begin their boat trip

      We've got a fantastic Wheels for the World team in Yumbe, Uganda for the next ten days. The team are reporting back with regular blogs. Here's the third report. Please continue to pray for the team in their ongoing work. Thank you for your support.

      Yumbe Blog 5 (Days eleven to thirteen) May 12–14th 2023


      After meeting the HHA team for a brief debrief we loaded the minibus and headed for our R&R day at the Murchison Falls National Park.  We were excited when at last we left the bumpy unmade dusty road as we had bounced up and down in the back of the minibus whilst our amazing driver negotiated puddles, potholes, road works, broken tarmac with cars, lorries or heavily laden bicycles and motor bikes often approaching in narrow spaces or blind corners.

      We stopped for lunch in Aura and sampled ‘real’ Ugandan food as opposed to the English food that every hotel offers. In the refugee camp we had offal and intestines with maize meal for lunch which some of us found quite challenging so the chance to try other dishes was appealing. The menu was varied and included fish dishes using talipia, (fried, dried, filleted, stewed), poshko, (maize meal), muchombo (grilled goat), matoke (mashed plantain), greens and chapati. Delicious until you realise you have another 3 hours siting in the minibus.

      As we approached our destination – Red Chilli Rest Camp – at sunset, we were excited to see our first game animals which gave us a taste of what was to come.  Impala, water buck, giraffe in the distance, small monkeys, baboons, warthog and Cape buffalo welcomed us to our destination. Red Chilli Rest Camp lived up to its name as the team chilled after an exhausting but very rewarding week.  It is situated out in the bush above the Albert Nile, with hippo visiting at night by our rooms to feed before slipping back into the shallow river the snooze during the day.

      Two members of the team work on the van, crawling under the back, while another team member watches As our minibus had a flat battery we walked to the river jetty and boarded our small boat for a 3-hour safari up the River Nile to Murchison Falls and back with very informative Rangers.  John, our photographer, was in his element as we saw an array of wildlife which included plentiful hippo, crocodiles – one of whom slithered into the water with a big splash – colobus monkeys, antelopes, water buck, warthog and a wide variety of birds.  Since his camera has mega telephoto lens the smallest details were captured as lasting memories.

      After a refreshing drink we proceeded to the top of Murchison Falls but were held up at the check point as we had to pay extra fees to get to the Falls.  We are not sure why it took 45 minutes in 32C     for such a transaction! However, it was worth the wait as suddenly we saw spectacular views of water, from the world’s longest river, pounding through a 7-metre gap sending a cooling spay over everyone whilst dropping 43 metres at 300 cubic metres per second. For once we were all quiet as we were mesmerised by the sheer scale and grandeur of the world’s most powerful waterfall.

      A view over the top of Murchison FallsLiving life to the full before spending 6 hours in our minibus going back to the airport, we rose at 0530 to join a convoy of tourists watching the sun rise over the African bush.  Our driver told us that we were extremely blessed to see so many animals as sometimes he has driven people for two days without seeing such variety.  We saw a herd of giraffes cross the road in front of us, a family of elephants – mum leading her two babies and dad following behind, lions resting in the trees and Cape buffalo snoozing in a mud pool.  After such a challenging but fruitful time at  BidiBidi it was a wonderful end to our adventure.  In our final devotions we reflected on the many challenges the people we have been serving face daily and how their Christian faith is vibrant and real.

      Enos will be spending the next four days travelling back to Zanzibar whilst we will all be back in the U.K. in 12 hours.  It has been a wonderful gift to all of us to serve and be served by His people in this place. “He raises the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour”. 1 Samuel 2.8.

      Wheelsblog – Uganda, Yumbe 2023: Blog 4

      Members of the team share their puppets with some African children

      We've got a fantastic Wheels for the World team in Yumbe, Uganda for the next ten days. The team are reporting back with regular blogs. Here's the third report. Please continue to pray for the team in their ongoing work. Thank you for your support.

      Yumbe Blog 4 (Days nine to ten) May 10–11th 2023

      Can you believe that the container was released yesterday and will be at the HHA Compound tomorrow whilst the team is driving to Murchison Falls! Very frustrating and disappointing as we all know that a ‘proper distribution’ is so different. We wanted to come and personally distribute all the equipment in the container, but instead are leaving the HHA team with a lot of extra work to fit into their already crowded programme.

      However, we have been able to spend quality time with 41 beneficiaries reviewing equipment previously given and fitting a small number of wheelchairs, mostly to children with complex needs. This provided invaluable opportunities for HHA wheelchair technicians to have in-depth teaching and mentoring about different specialist wheelchairs when seating more complex clients. God’s ways are not always our ways, so we are learning to go with the flow! If the container had arrived, we would not have reviewed 11 clients each of whom had a story to share.

      Today we visited Palorinya refugee camp, Moyo, travelling two hours to get there. We passed the border controls into South Sudan where a crowd of people could be seen; some were there to enforce illegal crossings whilst others were trying to enter Uganda. This was a reminder that still today there are horrible events happening causing people to leave their home, land and belongings in the hope that they can at least hold onto their lives. Scovia, who has worked with us each day, told us her story of leaving South Sudan as a refugee in 2017. She left everything behind except some clothing and walked 30km to the border carrying her 3-month-old baby which she said was very frightening. Her husband, a pharmacist, stayed in South Sudan so that he could earn, but in remaining risked his own life. Scovia told us that on arriving at the camp she was given a water can, some soap, beans, rice, salt, a blanket, a mat and a piece of tarpaulin and shown a small area of land to make a home. Scovia still fears returning to South Sudan and Agnes, the lead Community Based Rehabilitation Worker, identified ‘mental torture’ as the greatest challenge which needs addressing to restore hope.

      A member of the wheels team helps Peter, a five year old boy, to stand up in his new special boots. He's smiling at the camera, while his mother looks and smiles at him from behind.On the camp we saw mainly disabled children and were able to give out some chairs. Two women had left at 0600 with their disabled child and some sibling to walk 5 km in the hope of receiving a wheelchair. This shows how desperate people are for help in caring for their disabled children. Another child Peter, (5 yrs old) could stand but wobbled badly. When fitted with a pair of special Pedro boots which improved his ankle stability, he was able to walk to the delight of his mother. He was given a wheelchair so will now be able to go to school and will be supplied with a walking frame when the container is unloaded.

      The are many things we take for granted in the developed western world, so several incidences reminded us of the daily struggles here. We had a power surge that ‘fried’ chargers for laptops and phones hindering John who takes our photos and all of us relying on a charged phone and Dave’s hotspot. During our distribution under a spreading tree to use some shade as the temperature was a mere 32C, a very poisonous Green Tree Snake fell down directly beside therapists working with the child. The father grabbed the child as Moses, our partner techie, killed it with a strong stick so we could resume work.

      On our return journey the road conditions had changed as it had rained, so the hard dusty road quickly turned into mud and massive puddles. When we went down a ravine and tried to go up the other side there was a spectacular thump, so the driver stopped at the top to see his spare tyre at the bottom of a soggy flooded road. David, our pastor, joined Ema our driver, lying under the back of the vehicle trying to clip it back into position. Probably a regular occurrence but challenging none the less!

      Free event: Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility

      Dr Naomi Graham, wearing overalls with 'Growing Hope' written on the front, stands smiling in front of a recently scrubbed chalk blackboard

      You’re invited to join us on Saturday 20th May from 10.30am to noon for a free Through the Roof online event on ‘Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility’.

      We’re excited to welcome Naomi Graham as our speaker. Naomi runs ‘Growing Hope’, a charity providing free therapy for children and young people with additional needs in partnership with local churches across the UK.

      Naomi is a children’s occupational therapist by training and will discuss how we process the world around us, how God speaks to us through our senses and how we can apply that practically to our church ministries.

      The event is open to all, so please join us, and pass on the information to anyone you think may be interested!

      The event will be on Zoom, on Saturday 20th May 10.30am – 12.00 noon.

      The event is free, but you’ll need to follow this link to register before attending. To find out more, contact the TTR office info@throughtheroof.org or ring 01372 749955.

      Wheelsblog – Uganda, Yumbe 2023: Blog 3


      We've got a fantastic Wheels for the World team in Yumbe, Uganda for the next ten days. The team are reporting back with regular blogs. Here's the third report. Please continue to pray for the team in their ongoing work. Thank you for your support.

      Yumbe Blog 3 (Days seven to eight) May 8–9th 2023

      It has been a difficult two days as the wheelchairs still have not arrived and our original plans had to change, but the team pulled together and drew on each other’s strengths to make these days positive. The team visited two different areas of Bidi Bidi camp.  Yesterday we travelled two hours each way to Zone 4, and then today three hours to Zone 5 when we had to turn back and find another route as the steep river crossing was obstructed by work on a new bridge.  Travelling provided lots of photo opportunities of day-to-day living – repairing leaking hut roofs with thatch, working in the fields tending crops, fetching water from village pumps and selling fruit beside the road. 

      We met one child aged 9, at his home where he lived with his aunty and mother.  His mother told us that when he was born his father left as soon as he found out his child had a disability. This is a common story here in Africa where fathers leave because they believe that disability is caused by a curse which they fear.  Our aim is to show disabled people respect and love in the hope that we are modelling positive attitudes and in a small way maybe influencing change.

      In each of the Zones we met beneficiaries who mainly had complex needs. The therapists gave advice on postural support including sleep positioning to protect body shape in people with complex disabilities, as well as fitting recipients to wheelchairs that would best support their needs. The HHA team here reported back that they have learnt a lot from working alongside the therapists. They particularly valued learning more about how to manage clients with complex disabilities inducing how to improve good head positions for feeding and swallowing properly.

      A group of people from the area batting some balloons to each otherWherever we go we seem to attract a crowd of people and these two days on the camp was no exception. Shortly after we arrived a trickle of onlookers turned into a flood. Children came from nowhere and soon Lynne had them involved in ripping foam to fill cushion covers used for postural support. Towards the end of day puppets were given out with much amusement and later balloons and bubbles provided entertainment with fun and laughter.

      Today a crowd of children gathered around a family as our pastor David was sharing the Gospel and praying. His message was that the recipient was not just accepted but was also special to God. As David talked, more adults and children pressed forward to watch and listen, some inside the church climbed the wall to reach the small upper windows behind him, holding onto the bars to lift themselves up to see. It reminded us of the story in the Bible where the man was lowered from the roof because the crowds were gathered too tightly to see and hear Jesus. We felt that this was a scene that perfectly represented the ethos Through the Roof.

      Wheelsblog – Uganda, Yumbe 2023: Blog 2

      The wheels team sits and talks with a large group of local people, including some in wheelchairs and mobility buggies

      We've got a fantastic Wheels for the World team in Yumbe, Uganda for the next ten days. Jill, one of the team members, is reporting back with regular blogs. Here's the second report. Please continue to pray for and support the team, as they wait for the wheelchair container to arrive, and do all the work they can to prepare.

      Yumbe Blog 2 (Days four to six) May 5–7th 2023

      We were delighted to reach the HHA Rehabilitation Centre at last and had the fabulous opportunity to rekindle relationships with the HHA staff some of us had previously worked with in 2019. We had the joy of seeing how far they have developed and the new skills they had learnt. Being conscious of empowering the staff with their evolving skills, we worked together but encouraged the HHA Wheelchair Technicians to take the lead and show us how they assess and provide wheelchairs to the beneficiaries. We collaborated, problem-solving how we best meet their needs and reflecting on how we all as therapists never get the chair set up ‘right’ first time and tweaking is required. The HHA staff were visibly encouraged hearing this and this further served to strengthen our relationships with us serving alongside them.

      We met Micheal, the Commandant of the Bidi Bidi camp, who is a very Government official for a office of the Prime Minister. David, our Pastor,  gave him a Bible from a member of his congregation which he gratefully and slightly emotionally received.

      The newly built HHA Rehab Centre here is very well equipped and they were rightly proud of all that has been achieved to set up this place. The technician in the orthotic and prosthetic making department showed us each stage of the manufacturing process and the shoemaker explained the process of making special shoes. We were told that the timescale from measuring a person to them receiving their prosthetic leg was two days! Many of the people who come have lost a leg due to a bullet wound or an accident inflicted during the conflicts in South Sudan. It is a sobering thought to think that the people here on this peaceful camp have fled from a very different environment to seek refuge here. 

      HHA provided delicious lunch of local food before we headed back to the centre to meet 4 beneficiaries who were waiting to meet the team. One of the children who was a young girl of 6 years old who came with her mother for a wheelchair and actually left with a walking frame as we found she was able to walk. The therapy assessment raised hopes that this young girl with the right corrective footwear and a walking frame to support her in standing was what she needed. It was a blessing that among the equipment that we brought in our case there was a pair of Pedro boots (special support boots) that had been donated that fitted her well.  Some of our technicians together with the HHA team were very creative in modifying an adult walking frame to so that she could use it for support.   What a delight to see this girl walking and even trying to kick a ball. 

      David, a member of the Wheels for the World team, preaches while holding his notes. A colleague from Uganda stands next to him, helping and translating.On Sunday the team attended the Amazing Grace Baptist Church where we were given a very warm welcome. Our pastor David was asked to give the sermon today to the church. He gave a very powerful and heartfelt word that touched many hearts.  There was vibrant worship with the children singling and dancing all doing  ‘the right sort of moves’, accompanied by the energetic  worship in the church.  

      After church we again met with a girl called Winnie, who had actually visited us yesterday but unfortunately we were unable to provide her with a chair as we had none that would fit her.  Having her return today we had the pleasure of seating her, advising on postural support and then gave her a Bible and the whole team prayed together with her and her mother surrounded by children with knitted puppets. This was a special time as her mother prayed too and spoke of how her heart was overjoyed with the gifts her daughter had received today. Winnie soon demonstrated her ability to self propel the chair and her joy in this freedom was written all over her smiling face. 

      Follow this link to read the first blog post from the trip

      Follow this link to read the next blog post from the trip.