Home Away From Home: The Role of Houseparents in Caring for Children with Disabilities

by Cynthia Bauer, Kupenda Founder and Executive Director

 

When I think of the houseparents who work at Kupenda supported schools, I think of strength, compassion, and sacrifice. They are the caretakers for children living away from their families for weeks at a time.

Mainstream schools in Kenya do not have the resources or properly trained staff to provide the support that many children with special needs need to learn and thrive. Kupenda is working with Kuhenza (our partner organization) to make more schools accessible to ALL children. In the meantime, the best option for many children with special needs is to attend the few schools that have teachers and staff trained to meet their needs. Since there are so few of these, children with disabilities that live far away need to board in dormitories attached to the schools themselves. That means that these children are away from their families, and the houseparents become their family away from home.

The houseparents are responsible for taking care of the everyday needs of the children. At the Gede Special School, they care for 120 children with disabilities. Half of these children require support for activities of daily living, like using the toilet, eating, washing themselves, and moving from place to place. As a result of the houseparents’ efforts, the children are clean, well fed, healthy, and happy. The work is tiring, but these amazing people do it with a smile on their face, because they love the kids as if they were their own.

When I was last in Kenya, I was encouraged that these 4 ladies were no longer the only caretakers. We currently have a total of 10 houseparents at the Gede Special School. While we fund the salaries of 4 of the houseparents, our work has since inspired the government and other nonprofit organizations to provide 6 more.

I am so grateful to know these incredible caretakers. They are often in the background working tirelessly but said, “We love our jobs! 100%

It is a job that calls for a lot of passion and dedication to serve.  Their love is evident in their smiles, and I’m grateful to know them.


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