Manuel Rodrigues was honoured with the 2017 World’s Children’s Prize for his 20-year fight for blind children and children with different abilities in Guinea-Bissau.
Children with different abilities in Guinea-Bissau are among the world’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable children. Through Manuel and his organization AGRICE, they get to live a life with dignity. They receive medical care, food, a home, the opportunity to go to school, security and love.
Manuel talks to politicians, other organizations and most of all rural communities about the rights of children with different abilities. Without Manuel, people in rural villages would not receive this information. Thanks to Manuel’s work, children and adults know that children with visual impairments and other disabilities have the same rights as everyone else. Manuel’s fight has saved these children from being mistreated, abandoned, or even killed.
250 blind children have lived at Manuel’s centre and attended his school, which has been adapted for people with visual impairments. The aim is for these children to move back in with their families after receiving education and training from Manuel. Most of these families are poor, and the children receive support from AGRICE after moving home, so that they can continue their education and have a good life in their village.
The work of Manuel and his organization
What AGRICE does:
• They go on rural rescue missions, searching for blind children and children with other disabilities, who often have extremely difficult lives. The children are offered help at Manuel’s centre.
• While on rural rescue missions, they raise awareness that children with different abilities have the same rights as all other children, and provide free medicine and information on how to prevent the most common eye diseases.
• They give visually impaired children shelter, a home, food, clothes, and security at the centre. Children also learn to get washed and dressed, do cleaning, wash dishes, cook simple meals, and other life skills for independent living in the future and to be able to help their families when they return home.
• They give children medical care and eye operations where possible.
• They run the first school in the country to be adapted for the visually impaired, but open to all. AGRICE helps adapt mainstream schools all over the country so that they can accept students with different disabilities, and trains teachers in braille.
• They help children move back home. They prepare the children’s families, neighbours and teachers in their villages before the children return, so that they will be welcomed in a positive way. If it is not possible for a child to be reunited with their family, they help the child to find a foster family. No child leaves Manuel’s centre unless he or she is moving to a safe environment.
• They support children with school fees and school uniforms long after leaving Manuel’s centre, so that they can continue their education and look forward to a good future.
• They raise awareness throughout society that children with different abilities have the same rights as everyone else. Manuel speaks on the radio and AGRICE publishes a magazine. They fight for the government to ratify (sign) the UN Convention for the Rights of all People with Disabilities.