This week the world is celebrating International Orphans Day. At Kupenda, we join our colleagues in commemorating this special day by raising support for vulnerable young people but also by highlighting the need to prevent orphanhood in the first place.
More than 70% of children with disabilities in our programs and millions more around the world have been abandoned by their parents due to poverty and stigma about disability. At Kupenda we are working hard to reverse this injustice by improving parents’ economic capacity, reducing negative beliefs about disability, and reuniting children with their parents.
Neema Baya is one of our favorite family reunification stories from the past year. When Neema’s father learned that she was deaf, he believed her mother had been unfaithful and caused the child’s condition. Although the mother was indeed innocent, her husband could not be persuaded and he soon abandoned the family. Without her husband’s income, Neema’s mother was unable to care for her and sent her away to a rural village so she could look for work.
As a disabled orphan, Neema was neglected. Not only was she kept out of school but she was also ignored. Few people made an effort to speak with her, so Neema never learned sign language.
When Kupenda finally met Neema she was 11-years old. Although we counseled her caregiver and convinced her that Neema deserved to be educated, we also knew that, under Kenyan law, schools cannot admit children without parental consent. In response, we worked hard to locate Neema’s parents. When we finally found them, we called them to a meeting and counseled them at length on their legal responsibility to care for Neema. We then supported them in identifying a school where Neema could be educated and learn sign language.
Although the process took time, Neema is now enrolled in school and fluent in sign language. Kupenda has also trained her parents in sign language and helped them understand that Neema’s condition is genetic and not caused by infidelity. The couple re-united and the family is now living together.
In celebration of World Orphan Day and special young women like Neema, we thank you for making Kupenda’s programs possible. Your support allows us to continue identifying, educating and serving both children with disabilities and their families so fewer young people become or remain orphans.