by Lauren Blair
Posted on February 9, 2024
For children with disabilities like Andrew, the difference between a life of mistreatment and isolation versus one of love and inclusion is often due to beliefs surrounding disability within their community. In many low- and middle-income countries, disabilities are believed to be the result of witchcraft or a curse, leading to abuse, abandonment, and, at times, death. That is why Kupenda hosts Disability Training Workshops, so that community leaders may learn the medical causes of disability, what appropriate intervention looks like, and how to provide lifechanging support. This type of stigma reduction can have a profound impact on children’s lives, just like it did with Andrew’s.
Andrew is a young boy who is hard of hearing and lives with his parents and six siblings in Kilifi, Kenya. His parents struggled to afford a school that could support his needs due to intermittent droughts, flooding, and locust invasions that affected their farming income.
As a result, he was often left at home, unable to communicate, attend church or school, receive medical care for his ringworm infection, or cultivate hope for his future. That all changed, however, when a community leader named Mary intervened.
Mary is a birth attendant in Andrew’s village. Since she recently attended one of Kupenda’s Disability Training Workshops, she was excited to meet with Andrew’s family and tell them what she had learned. Mary counseled Andrew’s family about the medical cause of his disability so that they understood it was not the result of a curse or witchcraft. She also educated them about abuse prevention and Andrew’s rights. Then she put them in touch with Kupenda’s Kenyan staff, who agreed to support a portion of Andrew’s school fees with the help of a supporter. Finally, Mary referred the family to a local hospital where Andrew could receive medication for ringworm.
With these supports, Andrew started attending the Kibarani School for the Deaf, where he is now learning tools to communicate, receiving an education, and making new friends. His parents report that his mood has also lifted. At home, Andrew joyfully demonstrates his creativity by building houses with sand and decorating them with flowers.
Due to Mary’s continued disability advocacy activities, other doors are also opening for Andrew. His family can attend a church where there is a Sunday school teacher who communicates in sign language. Andrew loves retelling the Bible story of David and Goliath. He reports that it is his favorite because someone small is making a large impact.
As more leaders like Mary influence those around them to better support and include people with disabilities, children like Andrew will be equipped to thrive and share their gifts with the world. Thank you for continuing to be a part of this positive and growing change!
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