"This is my son." Those were the heartening, powerful words that the father of a newborn baby said recently, in a public acceptance and embrace of his tiny new son, born with albinism.
These words are heard all too rarely, especially from fathers. Too often in Tanzania, fathers reject their children with albinism, leave the family, or much worse - some sell out their own children, instigating the horrific attacks against them.
When his son was born, this father, who had attended an Under The Same Sun Albinism Awareness seminar in western Tanzania in 2012, remembered what he had learned at the seminar. He credits UTSS for the shift in his attitude from one of suspicion and alarm about albinism, to tenderly cherishing his beautiful little boy: "I have learned something about albinism from UTSS some years ago," he says.
This father's acceptance and embrace of his own baby will change this child's life. This tiny baby will grow up with love in his home, not disdain, mistreatment or fear.
"This is my son," is music to the ears of Kondo Seif. Kondo is also a person with albinism, a university graduate from Under The Same Sun's Education Programme, and now a full time employee of UTSS, travelling throughout Tanzania and speaking at Albinism Awareness seminars.
Kondo, 55, says that simply his presence at these events challenges the old suspicions about albinism that still run so strongly in his country. "Some people do not believe a person with albinism can stand before people and talk to them about things that are sensible," says Kondo. "Sometimes people come to touch our bodies to see whether there is a difference between them and us. We tell them I am a university graduate, and we introduce them to a team of graduates."
For Kondo and his team - and all the little babies like the one claimed so lovingly by his father, these seminars are a matter of life and death. We are being hunted in Tanzania, reminds Kondo. We have to teach people the truth about albinism. It's urgent!
Right now, UTSS is embarking on another series of Albinism Awareness days, with Kondo and his team planned especially around International Albinism Awareness Day on June 13.
Some of you have already given for this. Thank you! This is what your gifts are doing.
And if you haven't had a chance to give yet, will you do so by June 13 so that we can hold these crucial Understanding Albinism Seminars?
Your gift will cover the costs of holding public awareness seminars, playing radio spots that spread the message even further and distributing information pamphlets. Our goal is to raise $10,000 for this critical work. All gifts go directly to the program in Tanzania.
Together, let's make the attacks and discrimination of people with albinism, history! Happy International Albinism Awareness Day!