Mike Bell Reflects on His 11 Years as a Kupenda Supporter and Urges Others to Remember Vulnerable Children during Coronavirus
Mike Bell has been supporting Kupenda for 11 years through his leadership of the nonprofit organization, Healing Nations. In this interview, Mike shares about why he believes in Kupenda’s founder, Cynthia Bauer, and why he has continued to raise support for her organization. Mike also urges others to support Kupenda, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic, when health facility closures, family poverty and widespread illness are making children with disabilities in low-income countries even more vulnerable.
When and how did you first get involved with Kupenda?
In 2009 my church was looking for someone to partner with in Marafa, Kenya. I started poking around and stumbled onto one of only two ministries working in the area; Kupenda. I started talking with Cindy [Kupenda’s founder] and asking her what the needs were. What Cindy was doing was really in line with what my church was looking for, and the values of the new non-profit I had just started [formerly called Hungry for Life USA] centered on . So, long story short, we raised money for the boys dormitory [at the Marafa Special School].
What’s something you remember from your trip to Kenya to see Kupenda’s work?
One of the things that we loved was that Kupenda said [to the parents of the kids who would use the dorm], “You have to have skin in a game and participate in its construction.” So the parents were digging the foundation and collecting the raw materials. When we got there, there was a team of relatives already busy doing that.
What attracted you to our mission of helping people living with disabilities in developing nations?
We saw that as a great opportunity to address an important issue. Kupenda is able to correct wrong thinking and comprehensively address the stigma around differently-abled children.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that Kupenda does? Why?
I would say it’s the piece of going in and helping the community understand the realities of disabilities. Any time there’s an opportunity to correct cultural lies in the ways people think, that’s a win against poverty and any type of discrimination that’s happening.
That’s what development workers should be focusing on. Some of the best minds on this topic are saying poverty at its core is an issue of beliefs, not a lack of resources. People are often mired in local folk religious beliefs that affect what they believe about reality and their own capacity. The reform that has to happen in worldview is the most critical piece in poverty alleviation. The fact that Kupenda is in there countering the belief that differently abled people are cursed, is a key component to combating cultural lies.
What do you hope Kupenda will achieve in the near future?
I hope that Kupenda’s efforts to export disability advocacy to other situations and countries is radically successful. Cindy and I have talked about Haiti. [Healing Nations has] has a great field partner who is well connected in that country. My hope is to help her make the right connections in places like that and take the lessons she has learned from Kenya to help more people.
What draws you to continue supporting Cindy as a leader?
I love her heart and how she has parlayed her own disability into a fantastic opportunity to work on behalf of kids in distressing situations. That is such a great example of taking something from the minus column and turning it into a major plus. I think it’s fantastic. She is an inspiring individual because of it.
Do you have any advice to others, especially during the current Coronavirus pandemic?
Get involved in supporting Kupenda. This is a ministry with a 20 year track record of success in all the right places, that needs strategic partners during these challenging times!