Today we had the much-anticipated meeting with local traditional healers, pastors, and healthcare professionals. We all opened with prayer and the discussion was respectful and nonstop from thereon. No one wanted to break for lunch as everyone was so involved with the conversation. It lasted from 9 am to 4 pm without any breaks and we hardly noticed how much time had gone by. There were so many questions from all sides. They were all open to what the medical people had to share as well and healers and pastors asked more questions of them. We discovered many traditional methods of treating disabilities and unique beliefs as to why certain disabilities exist. Some traditional methods were confusingly strange and others actually made sense. I won’t go into them all here but wanted to highlight the treatment for children with speech problems since there was a specialist in that area at the meeting.
This traditional healer specializes in tongue cutting. The doctor said that there is a genetic condition in the tribes in this region that cause some to have a malformed frenulum (skin underneath the tongue) that causes a speech impediment. The tongue cutting specialist and the doctor said they both cut the frenulum to release the tongue to develop normally. However, the healers said that many people are fraudulently claiming to be qualified and cutting tongues unnecessarily to make money. They said they are telling parents they must pay them to cut the healthy tongues of children who simply have a speech impediment. This came up when they were asked why almost every child who is hard of hearing at the local school had their tongue cut at least one time.
All of the people present in the room seemed genuinely concerned about children with disabilities. They want to do what is right for the child but know there are others in their communities…both pastors and traditional healers…who perform abusive functions from ignorance or to make money. They also want to learn where they should refer certain conditions that are beyond their abilities to treat. All decided much more needed to be done.
At the end of the meeting, one of the healers in the group said she thought they should form an association to continue these conversations. They nominated two leaders and they will meet again in a few weeks after looking over Kupenda’s guidebook on disability. All want to know more and will meet in our office again. They agreed that they will tell those in their communities what they learned today and look forward to continued conversations.
It’s always so amazing for me to see our simple idea turn into a reality that takes a life of its own. Amazed but not surprised as Leonard, our Kenya director, and I both felt God leading this. It is still exciting to see what direction this will go in the future. If the mindset of the spiritual leader’s changes so does that of the community. Ultimately there will be a better future for children with disabilities in this small region of Kenya.
Thanks for your prayers and encouragement as we venture into this new territory.
With love and gratitude,
Kupenda for the Children
PO Box 473 Hampton NH 03843