Guest post by 2013 Akili Dada Fellow, Maria Omare:
The Action Foundation Rehabilitation Centre at the heart of Kibera is creating a space for children living with physical andmental disabilities in low income and marginalized areas to lead a normal life. Last month, they graduated their first class of 5 children who completed th rehabilitation program. Evans, Joan, Fidelis, Linda and Jane had all undergone a range of therapy –physical, occupational, speech and art therapy. All of these helped to improve not only their self-esteem but their motor, social and communication skills. The graduation ceremony and celebration was supported by Oracle volunteers who gave gifts to the children and donated food to the Centere.
Evans’ mother couldn’t help smiling as she proudly held her son as he was given his graduation certificate and a gift. The other parents of children at the Centre could all relate to her words as she explained the troubles she had gone through, trying to get Evans into a school and ensure he receives much needed therapy. Evans was born at home because his mother, Jemimah, could not afford to pay maternity fees. He grew up normally in the first few months, but Jemimah noticed that there might be something wrong when he did not sit up or crawl like her previous children. She was advised to take him for assessment at Mbagathi District Hospital when a doctor shared that Evans had cerebral palsy.
Although she was saddened by the news, Jemimah was determined to give Evans equal opportunities to his siblings. It became increasingly difficult to ensure he received regular physiotherapy because she could not afford to pay the fees and the hospitals were far from their home in Lindi Village, Kibera. When Evans turned 4 years old, Jemimah felt that he should go to school and therefore took him for interviews at local schools. However, she faced rejection as they claimed Evans would be difficult to take care of and would disrupt the learning of the other children. Her neighbors were not sympathetic, and finding someone to care for Evans while she looked for work was proving to be a significant challenge. When she heard about The Action Foundation Rehabilitation Centre, she was among the first to sign up. She felt that Evans would have the opportunity to not only learn, but also receive therapy , healthy meals and care. In October 2013, Evans underwent corrective surgery at Cure International after The Action Foundation ran a fundraising campaign to support corrective surgery and assistive devices for Evans and 2 other children from the centre. His cerebral palsy had affected his lower limbs and he had to walk on his knees as he could not stand on his feet. The surgery was successful and Evans can now stand on his feet and walk with some support.
In the graduation ceremony, Jemimah mentioned how The Action Foundation had changed the life of Evans and her wholefamily. She encouraged other parents to be committed to bringing their children to the centre because of the great improvements she has witnessed in her son. Through a partnership between The Action Foundation and Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre, Evans and the other graduates have now joined their school.
The Action Foundation was founded in 2010 by Maria Omare, a 2013 Akili Dada Fellow. The organization aims at transforming the lives of children with disabilities in low income and marginalized areas. To learn more, visit: www.theactionfoundationkenya.org