A lot of things are happening in Kenya both good and hard… We’ve learned they often go together. Locals in Kenya are empowered to assist with disability needs in their own communities although terrorist threats continue to impact the coast. This combination of facts has resulted in us expanding Kupenda’s efforts to Tanzania this June!
Although there is so much more to do we are encouraged that local government organizations, individuals and churches are building wheelchair ramps, physical therapy rooms, providing scholarships for children with disabilities, and showing the community that “disability is not inability”. Our Kenyan director, Leonard Mbonani, says most of these activities are a result of Kupenda’s example and work. This includes Kupenda organized stakeholder, parent, and pastor meetings. Of course, seeing changed lives of children with disabilities because of Kupenda’s efforts have revealed what is possible and inspired the local people to take initiative. It’s great to see this as we have a lot of work still to do in Kenya especially as we think about starting a small model communication center inspired by some of the places we visited when Leonard and Norbert were in the U.S.
Terrorist Threats on the Coast
In spite of the great strides for children with disabilities, there are some major challenges in Kenya due to terrorist threats on the coast. The travel warnings have made it difficult to get travel insurance so many tour companies are cancelling resulting in coastal hotels being shut down. In addition to fears connected to terrorist events, this is a major hit for the economy on the coast where tourism accounts for more than half of the local economy. In Malindi itself, there haven’t been reports of terrorist incidents but there are threats and fears connected to the recent events in Mombasa (about 73 miles south of Malindi). For Kupenda, the biggest impact at the moment is on our June volunteer trip.
Disability Outreach in Tanzania
For the last 2 years my brother, Andy, and I have been planning to take 15 volunteers to Kenya from Hope Community Church and First Baptist Church of Bangor this month. However, last month, our Kenyan board advised us not to bring the volunteer group due to the most recent travel warnings and recent killings of religious leaders on the coast. On the same day that we decided to cancel, we were invited by Kulea Childcare Villages to join them in Chalinze Tanzania to reach out to families impacted by disability in their community. Kulea (“to nurture or grow” in Swahili) cares for “Tanzania orphans and Kenya orphans so that they grow into leaders who can provide new vision and integrity in their communities.” They define a vulnerable child as “an orphan, or a child who does not have a relative to provide food, clothes, shelter, health care, supervision, and school fees – often due to the poor health of a lone remaining parent.” Currently they do not have children with disabilities involved in their work but would like to include them. Therefore our volunteers are excited to be part of pioneering work for disabilities and are going with Andy and me to Tanzania, June 23rd!
Chalinze is 350 miles southwest of our work in Malindi so our Kenya director is currently there assessing the current situation for children with disabilities with Kulea staff. It is estimated that less than 5% of children with disabilities in Tanzania attend a school of any kind. Therefore, we will be partnering with Kulea to work with the local churches, schools and families impacted by disability to make tiny steps to change this statistic. We’ll be hosting parent and pastor disability classes in addition to the volunteers working on improving the one classroom for children, who are deaf, (it’s in really bad shape) at the local public school, making the school and church wheelchair accessible, and including children with disabilities in craft/activities with the Kulea preschool kids. Our goal is to have 15 children with disabilities (one child for each one of our group) involved in their community activities by the end of our trip…hopefully led by local people without increased cost to the very limited budgets of Kulea and Kupenda.
Any of you who have read the book about the formation of Kupenda, An Unlikely Gift, may recall that my brother, Andy, was very much a part of our initial efforts in Kenya. Therefore it seems providential for him and Leonard to be on this trip to Tanzania. It feels like we are going to where we were ten years ago in Kenya. Only this time we actually have a little more experience to utilize!
We appreciate your continued prayers, encouragement, and support!
With much love and gratitude,
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