A 3D view of the future Joy Centre of Excellence for Autism that was designed by At-Con Engineering & Architecture Consultancy Plc.

Nia Foundation received a green light last week from the city's land administration office to start the construction of an autism centre.

Expected to be completed in two years’ time, the cost of the 300-million-Br centre of excellence will be covered through donations. The launching of construction came about after several delays that pushed the project back more than 20 months.

The centre will have four buildings, three of which will have four storeys, while the remaining one will have eight storeys.

The cornerstone for the centre was laid two years ago but was delayed after the City Administration considered using the land for part of a road project. Relocation of seven households for the construction of the buildings caused a delay as well.

“After several hurdles, we managed to secure the land again that was given to us by the City Administration initially,” said Zemi Yenus, founder of Nia Foundation. “The government is not supporting us as much as the sector needs attention.”

The building will include living dorms for children, a research and training centre to produce professionals in the field as well for parents of autistic children and a therapy centre. The building, expected to house 400 autistic children at once, will also include a theatre hall to help the centre generate income.

The new centre is expected to have a capacity of accepting more than 400 autistic people.

Designed pro bonoby At-Con Engineering & Architecture Consultancy Plc, the building, which will lay on a 5,000Sqm plot, is located in the CMC area, Bole district. At-Con will also conduct the supervision work.

“The hardships that autistic children and their parents are going through concerns us,” said Tsega Gebrehiwot, general manager of At-Con, which has also participated in the design and supervision of Modjo Cable & Wires Factory, Meqelle University dormitories and cafeteria buildings and Ambo Bullet factory. “That’s why we participated in the project.”

The contractor for the building will be Family Construction, which has participated in projects such as the Fincha Sugar Factory’s residential buildings, an asphalt road that leads to Megenagna and an ongoing tower project for Ethiopian Airlines. The contractor will finalise the initial phase of the construction for free.

“It’s every individual’s responsibility to support the centre,” said Mebrit Tiame, general manager of Family Construction.

Joy Centre for Autism has 80 employees and 50 autistic children living in it. Over 1,000 people have applied to join the centre. It also uses classrooms in schools in each district of Addis Abeba and the Oromia Special Zone Surrounding Addis Abeba for teaching students.

“We give priority to serving children with autism who have no parents or who come from single-parent households,” said Zemi. “Financial constraint is our major challenge.”

The Foundation plans to mobilise financing for the new centre through fundraising campaigns such as public auctions.

Joy Centre was established in 2002 by Zemi after her son was diagnosed with autism. An estimated one in 160 children around the world have autism although the actual prevalence rate in low and middle-income countries is unknown, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Seble Hailu, an educational psychologist and counselour, is impressed by the Foundation’s efforts.

“The centre will go a long way toward alleviating the burden on parents,” she said.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 16,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1020]

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