What if We Didn’t Exist?

by Rebecca Heidorn

Yaakim smiling

A Family Desperate for Help

Just months after her birth, Yaakim began to show signs of significant health issues. Her family had no idea why she was doing so poorly, and they were scared for her life. Her head was enlarged, she constantly cried, wouldn’t feed, appeared malnourished, wasn’t getting enough sleep, and had difficulty breathing. Yaakim’s father, Simon, is a pastor in the community. He prayed that God would heal his daughter, but she only got worse. They were desperate for God to answer their prayers and were heartbroken as they watched their daughter get worse. Many people in their community believed having a child like Yaakim meant the family did something wrong and was being punished.

They thought that another pastor might have more effective prayers than theirs. So, Yaakim’s parents took her to Pastor Mlanda, with the hope that his healing prayers would work. They did not know that this pastor had recently attended Kupenda’s disability advocacy workshop.

A Pastor’s Life-Saving Support

When Pastor Mlanda met Yaakim, he immediately recognized her condition as hydrocephalus because he had seen a picture of a child like her in the Kupenda disability workshop he attended. He shared what he learned about the condition, including that it was caused by fluid buildup near her brain and that there were treatments that could help. Pastor Mlanda connected the family to Kuhenza for the Children, where they could provide more support.

Kuhenza’s Project Officer was able to expand on some of what Pastor Mlanda had shared with them about the condition and make arrangements for the family to get support at a hospital in Kijabe where they specialize in cases like Yaakim’s. Pastor Mlanda accompanied the family on a public bus to this hospital, which is 400 miles away from their home.

After performing tests and scans, the hospital staff were able to diagnose Yaakim with a congenital malformation, malnutrition, hydrocephalus, and pneumonia. Once she was given medications and other necessary treatments, her condition improved significantly. She was discharged from the hospital with plans to pursue further treatment with a medical geneticist and surgery to correct her hydrocephalus.

Yaakim’s Story as One Among Thousands

Yaakim’s family is incredibly relieved to see their daughter continue to grow and improve and to know that her condition wasn’t caused by anything they did wrong.

Yaakim is now better understood by her family, thanks to the counseling they received from Kupenda’s staff and Pastor Mlanda. Her condition also continues to improve, and she is growing healthier each day.

But what if Kupenda didn’t exist? What if Pastor Mlanda hadn’t attended Kupenda’s workshop or been able to help  Yaakim’s family? Kupenda’s Kenyan staff member said,

“If Pastor Mlanda had not referred her, we might not be having this child with us today.”

This year, in addition to Pastor Mlanda, Kupenda trained 478 other community leaders as disability advocates. These influential pastors, traditional healers, government officials, and community health workers are now providing invaluable services to thousands of children in their communities. Every day they are not only improving, but also saving, the lives of children like Yaakim.

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