Kupenda for the Children’s 20th Anniversary: Two Decades of Supporting Children with Disabilities

by Rebecca Heidorn

Cynthia Bauer, Kupenda’s Founder and CEO, always imagined that she would pursue a career in wildlife biology. In fact, when she found herself in Kilifi, Kenya for the first time, she was completing field research in pursuit of a master’s degree in applied ecology from Eastern University of Ecology. It was there, in Kilifi, that she learned that if she were born in Kenya, she likely would have been killed for her disability, as she was born without her left hand. This knowledge moved Cindy’s heart and led her to begin supporting a child affected by disability. When her friends and family learned of her efforts, they were also eager to contribute. For several years, Cindy compiled and sent sponsorship funds to support children with disabilities in Kilifi.

Kupenda’s Beginning

In 2003, Cindy decided to formalize this work. Although she did not set out to start a non-profit, it seemed as if God had other plans. Wanting the name for the organization to reflect God’s love for children, she used the Kiswahili word “Kupenda,” roughly meaning “to love.” For several years, Cindy called her efforts “Kupenda for the Children,” and, when urged by a coworker, finally registered for nonprofit status on March 5th.

The First School

One of the first schools Kupenda began supporting to meet the needs of children with disabilities was the Gede Special School. As described in the above video from Leonard Mbonani, our Kenyan Director, the Gede Special School began as a single classroom for students affected by cerebral palsy. Although the ideal ratio of teachers to students with cerebral palsy was one to five, at Gede Special School they found two teachers and one teacher aide for 24 children. The teachers also faced a number of challenges, including a lack of formal curriculum, books, speech therapy, auditory training, and vocational training.

Over the course of the last 20 years, Kupenda for the Children has continued investing in the Gede Special School. Today, the facility has expanded from a single classroom to a campus comprised of multiple classrooms, dormitories, and a cafeteria. There are now more than 125 students in the Special Unit who are being taught by teachers who are better equipped with training and educational materials. Currently, Gede Special School is just one of numerous schools which continues to thrive with support from Kupenda.

Mission Expansion

Today Kupenda’s work with education, medical care, and advocacy has been implemented in 18 countries throughout the world. In each of these regions, Kupenda is also training and equipping community leaders to take ownership of this mission and meet the needs of people with disabilities around them. In the last year, this equated to 60,141 children with disabilities benefitting from Kupenda’s work.

Now, on the anniversary of this decision, we reflect fondly on all the lives we have changed and are eager to witness the future impact. Moving forward, we invite you to consider investing in this mission alongside us and experiencing its legacy for years to come!

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