Lessons on Love from Kenya

by Jessica Charles

Last week I watched 74 Kenya youth with disabilities have – quite literally – the time of their lives! All thanks to the Tim Tebow Foundation.

On February 8th, Kupenda partnered with the St. James Anglican Church of Kenya to celebrate the Foundation’s Night to Shine initiative alongside 100,000 guests at churches around the world!

This was a night to celebrate the beauty and strength of young people with disabilities.  It included red-carpet-strutting, fancy clothing, comedy performances, dances, powerful speeches, and delicious food.

It was also only the second Night to Shine in Kenya. And in Kenya, a night like this is particularly powerful – for its novelty but also its profound and public message of love, inclusion and celebration of people with disabilities.

After the festivities I went home and gushed about the incredible night to friends who loved the photos and shared my excitement. Though later, one asked: “Does it really make a difference?”

I assured him it did – on multiple levels: personal, familial and social. And I shared how a night like this is transformative everywhere – but especially in East Africa.

  • In Kenya, most people with disabilities have never had a birthday party, worn new clothing, or been celebrated by their community. On this night – they do – and feel – all of that love and excitement for the first time.

 

  • On Night to Shine, parents who’d hidden these young people and refused to pay for their food, education and medical care now walk proudly beside them, convinced of their worth, and waving to the applauding neighbors, teachers and leaders whose judgement they once feared.

 

  • ht to Shine, community leaders who’d once shunned families with disabilities or accused them and their families of witchcraft and sin now stand before hundreds praising their worth, celebrating their gifts, and encouraging others to do the same.

 

It makes a difference because it’s love. Love instead of the fear, shame, and indifference these children have encountered most of their lives. Love for who they are – not what they can do. And love for love’s sake: because they are worthy of love.

To hear more stories of love for these children, please join Kupenda’s Annual Spring Gala on March 30th in Burlington, MA. The event is free but please RSVP so we can prepare! 

Happy Valentine’s Day, from all your friends at Kupenda.

 

 


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Jessica Charles


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