As I watch the snowfall out my window…again…I can’t help but long for the warmth and beauty of the Kenyan coast. Strange that Kupenda board member, Carissa Mortenson, and I were just there a couple of weeks ago complaining about the heat!
Most of you know, Carissa and I were in Kenya from January 2nd through the 17th. Carissa was going to write about our recent trip for this email, but unfortunately, she came down with malaria shortly after our return and is undergoing treatment. When she is up for it, we will share her reflections on our recent trip. In the meantime, prayers for her recovery would certainly be appreciated!
Our latest trip included a very full schedule. Overall, we sensed a need to increase our focus on empowering the local people to meet the needs of those with disabilities in their own communities. This is especially important since we are serving an area with an estimate of at least 40,000 children with disabilities!
Our Kenya director, Leonard, along with Carissa and I travelled to a variety of venues. We spoke at three churches, a pastors’ workshop in Mombasa for over 200 pastors, a parent support group in Marafa, and the Lamu County Assembly. At each gathering, Leonard shared about what Kupenda does in Kenya for those impactedby disability. Carissa shared her experience as a mother of four children with disabilities and about her job as the disability ministry coordinator at Grace Fellowship Church. Meanwhile, I shared how Kupenda was started, its connection to my own condition of being born without a hand, sang, and played my guitar. Afterwards, many people were interested in going forward to enable people with disabilities in their own communities!
Some of our other activities included:
Meeting with the mothers’ autism support group: This group was led by one of the mothers who attended our January 2013 Beyond Suffering Class. During our time together, Carissa addressed their questions and we were able to see how these women have grown in their friendships and support for one another. More than half of them are single mothers, a fact which makes this type of support even more valuable.
Presenting the Kupenda book, “An Unlikely Gift,” to the family of the “cover girl,” Joyce: I thought it was fitting that we visited her on her first day of school! When she was a baby, her parents planned to put her in a special school due to her missing left hand, but we encouraged them to integrate her into a mainstream school. I even taught little Joyce how to play the guitar using my own special method of attaching a pick to a paper cup that was taped to my arm.
We visited the first Kupenda-sponsored college graduate student named Anthony (who is now a full-time politician): Since the new government structure in Kenya gives more power to county governments, Anthony has a lot of influence when it comes to legislation regarding disabilities. Seeing so many people calling Anthony counsellor was very impressive. At 28, he’s the youngest ward representative and we are so proud of the work he is doing! While visiting him in Lamu, we also met two amazing women serving disadvantaged children in their own communities out of their own pockets. They know there are so many more who need help, but they are struggling just to meet the needs of the few in their care.
Visiting special needs centers in Nairobi: Before leaving for home, we visited another amazing woman who started an autism center attended by one of our friends from the coast. We also visited a physical rehabilitation center outside of Nairobi that serves the Masai community.
These and other meaningful moments are captured in a photo album we’ve posted on our Facebook.
With your help, we were able to accomplish many things during our time in Kenya and are excited to implement new tools in the future. Thank you for enabling such positive change in the lives of children with disabilities!
With love and gratitude,
If you’re interested in supporting one of the many children we serve, head over to our sponsorship page to learn about how you can make a difference.