Bertha Haas

COUNTRY: Tanzania
CITY: Mwanza
FOCUS: Education and Healthcare
PROJECT(s): Hurama – School for Children with Disabilities
PEOPLE SERVED: 30 students with disabilities; 3 mainstreamed students that are hearing impaired
PROJECT GOAL(s): The project seeked to further the human rights of children with disabilities.

Bertha joined MKLM in 2002, coming from years of experience as a guidance counselor in Baker City, OR. In Oregon Bertha was very active in Our Lady of Angels parish in the Diocese of Baker City. Bertha received degrees at Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI, and the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK.

Bertha lived and worked in Mwanza, Tanzania where she helped to found Hurama, School for Children with Disabilities. The reality of children with disabilities in Tanzania fits into the broader context of poverty. Tanzania has the sixth highest poverty rate in the world. Mwanza is characterized by tremendous influx of people migrating from their villages and offers few employment opportunities, lack of adequate of health care, especially prenatal and early childhood care, poor nutrition, inadequate sanitation and lack of access to clean water all contribute to the high number of children with disabilities. A child with a disability was considered a family disgrace or even a curse. In some cases such a child was abandoned immediately or the child may be hidden inside the home.

Bertha’s experience in special education and counseling was instrumental in the school’s success. The school provided a model that can be duplicated throughout the city of Mwanza. It offered a comprehensive approach to meet the needs of the children with disabilities. It offered physical therapy, appropriate elementary education, and teacher training. In addition it provided health care support and daily nutritional support. All of these resulted in a growing support network for parents and caretakers of children with disabilities.

Today, Bertha is retired but is very involved in various ministries working for justice in Society and Church where she lives in Portland, Oregon.

Read this brief ARTICLE by Bertha Haas.