Special needs is a topic that has been dear to my heart for the past 9 years. In 2009, I made my first ever visit to a special school. Vision Africa had just completed the building of our partner project, Percy Davies Special School in Murang’a South Sub County and I had been tasked with the responsibility of taking one of the international volunteers we had at the time to volunteer at the school.
I don’t think the day’s experience will ever fade from my mind; not because we got lost and trekked for more than two kilometres in the scorching sun of Kambiti, I forgot the leg aches. What has never gone away is the feeling I had seeing so many children with special needs! Something I had never seen my entire life; I pitied them, felt helpless and questioned so many things on why they had to ‘suffer’ like they did. I wanted to do anything in my power to alleviate the suffering. I made a similar visit later to our other partner school, Kirunguru Special School and the story was no different.
As years progressed though, I realised that children with special needs do not need pity and sympathy; they need empathy, love and our support! I saw children who had been written off by their societies as lost causes being transformed into amazing young adults and children by the teachers, support staff, management and other stakeholders that we work with in special needs. I saw the joy of parents when their children who had never walked for many years made the first step, tears of disbelief in how their lives had been changed for the best.
I, like their teachers and parents, started celebrating the small milestones achieved by these children every time I would visit either of the two schools. I learnt that it is calming to give the hyper active child a hug and just reassure them that you care. I stopped questioning God and nature for the perceived suffering of the children and started appreciating all the stakeholders in the long chain ensuring that these children got their right to just life, education, healthcare, basic needs, leisure and play and all other children rights. I started looking forward to the next visit to the special schools.
Today, my joy is knowing that Vision Africa is not just working with the two special schools to reach out to the children with special needs. We have partnered with other stakeholders in the community, ministry of health and the ministry of education to ensure early interventions even in the pre-school children is achieved. We have parents in support groups encouraging, learning and supporting each other to care for their special needs children. Information flow on where to get assessment, medical examinations, special schools and special units is availed to parents and guardians to ensure that as many children as possible access the required services. Stigma has been greatly reduced through sensitization and parents and the society has changed their attitude towards special needs.
As Vision Africa and through the help of our donor partners, we have been able to construct and equip therapy rooms in both Kirunguru and Percy Davies special schools to be used by the school and the community for therapy services. We have also managed to establish a working relationship with therapists from the Maragua level 4 hospital to offer services in one of the schools and we’re looking forward to a similar one on the other school.
And today, as I delivered yet more of the therapy room equipment from the Association of the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK) to Kirunguru special school, my prayer and belief is that we will be able, in partnership with the other stakeholders, to reach out to as many children as possible and change their lives for the better.
Remember, DISABILITY IS NOT INABILITY! We all need love, understanding and empathy, so do all special needs people!
Post by Mary Mwangi, Programmes Manager