What did you do the last time you felt sick? If you’re like most in our community, you took medicine, saw a doctor, researched online, or even just called a friend or family member for support. For so many in Kenya, such options are a luxury.
Fortunately, your contributions are allowing Kupenda to bring more of these solutions to children living with disabilities in Kenya.Many of these young people have survived years and even decades without medical care before coming to us. Others have been treated by traditional healers who performed painful rituals and diagnosed their disabilities as resulting from sin and witchcraft. Almost all have been criticized and excluded by relatives and neighbors who blame them for their illnesses.
But today, because of your support, thousands of these children have accessed medical care, equipment, medicine, surgeries, therapy, education and counseling they need to live full lives with greater independence.
Although I’ve been working with Kupenda for less than a year, I had the honor of seeing your gifts in action last January when I met Kadzo Charo at a Kupenda-led parents meeting. Kadzo has eight children, two of whom have microcephalus, a disability that causes severe cognitive impairment. When asked to share her story, Kadzo said,
“During pregnancy I had problems and people were saying it was because of demons. I tried to give myself hope and say it was God’s plan – it cannot be demons. But three of my children were born this way. One of them died.”
After her child’s death, Kadzo feared for her other two sons with microcephalus, one of whom had also developed epilepsy. At the time, she earned just enough to feed her family, so transportation and fees at the medical facility were impossible expenses. Community members ridiculed and excluded Kadzo – believing she and her sons were contagious or cursed. Although she suffered in isolation, Kadzo continued to pray for her sons’ healing. Over time, however, the community beliefs began to influence her.
“Eventually, I went to a traditional healer to see if demons could be taken out of my sons. He gave me charms to put on their bodies and roots to boil and have them drink. But they were never healed. Today, I still have to do everything for them – wash their clothes, bathe them. Even after I’ve cooked for them I have to [help] them eat.”
Kadzo shared this story in a small church, surrounded by others in her community who were struggling to cope with their children’s disabilities. Some mothers were carrying paralyzed teenagers on their backs. Others were soothing children in pain.
Each parent’s story held the heartache of exclusion and confusion but also inspired compassion from the group and reminded Kadzo and her parent peers that they were not alone. That others could empathize. And that there were people who wanted to help.
Although Kupenda’s Kenya Director, Leonard, has heard thousands of these stories over the years, his compassion never wanes. As the last parent sat down from her testimony, Leonard rose and stood before the group. In his soft, firm voice, he began to explain the true causes of the children’s disabilities. He used data, science, photographs – and then he talked about treatment. Not with herbs, knives and charms, but with medicine, surgery and therapy.
And then one by one, Leonard began to strip down the barriers that had kept these families feeling hopeless. He talked to them about medical fee waivers, transportation services, education scholarships and parent support groups. The children listened as intently as their parents – many of them having believed until that point that they would never set foot in a classroom.
Today, just six months later, the children in that church have a different reality. With Kupenda’s support, many have received medical care and several have begun attending school. Kadzo has been helped to access epilepsy medicine for her son Furaha and will enroll both of the boys at the Marafa Special Needs Boarding School this September. Inspired by her new understanding of their disabilities, Kadzo also managed to raise funds to pay for the boys’ school uniforms and toiletries. And after Kupenda’s recent Disability Awareness Day in their community, the Chairman of the County’s Bursary Fund agreed to pay for the boys’ school fees.
Kupenda’s Project Officer, Loice Maluki, has been counseling and supporting Kadzo and her sons, Baraka and Furaha, since the January meeting. She is thrilled to see the family’s progress.
“In their home community many people stigmatize these boys so they are not free to socialize with other children. But when they go to a special school they’ll be able to meet other children with disabilities,” she said. “Also, Furaha will be able to get medication consistently and they’ll be educated in different areas, such as personal hygiene and vocational skills, like sewing and beadwork. It will help them as they grow up to be independent.”
The Charo family is among the thousands who have benefited from Kupenda’s support over the years and your contributions have provided the foundation for this success.
- Every $10 you’ve donated has provided a month of medicine so a child like Furaha will have fewer seizures
- Every $30 you’ve donated has paid for a month of schooling, food, and therapy for a child like Baraka
- Every $50 you’ve donated has enabled mothers like Kadzo to afford to transport their children to the clinic for care
- Every $100 you’ve donated has allowed Leonard to run a parents’ workshop, reaching 20-30 parents like Kadzo
These children, parents and staff join me in thanking you for your generous partnership and support.
To continue supporting these families, and help more children with disabilities enroll in school this September, please consider sponsoring one of our children or making a tax-deductible donation this summer.
With much love and gratitude,