We’ve been catching up with our Special Needs Programme Officer, Alice, to find out how her work has been going. She shared the story below with us and how it feels to be part of life-changing work.
“Derrick and Nancy are siblings who are intellectually challenged. Derrick is the third born while Nancy is the fourth born in a family of four. The family has three children with special needs out of which the second born is in special unit in a public school. The first born in the family is 14 years old and in class seven. He indicated that Derrick is seven years old while Nancy is six as the mother cannot remember their age. Both parents are casual labourers.
I met the family October 2016 after referral by a community health volunteer who suspected that the boy had special needs. The family is among the marginalised people in the community as their shelter was constructed for them by well-wishers referred by a local catholic priest. During the first visit the family described that the two children had delayed developmental milestones. The children could not communicate, they were unable to do toileting and they kept on tearing or removing their clothes. The father feels that his family is a social outcast as the surrounding community does not offer him casual jobs.
I conducted follow up visits emphasising more on hygiene and held consultations with Don Orione special school. As a result the children were referred for educational assessments and they were referred for rehabilitation and support to Don Orione special school that is sponsored by the Catholic Church. The school requires parents to provide uniform, conduct voluntary work at the school at least twice a week and provide school fees of KES 1000 per child per term.
The family could not afford school uniforms and therefore Vision Africa supported the children with full school uniform and is in the process of supporting the children with bags as they are required to carry clothes for changing which their mother currently packs in paper bags. The mother is very committed in supporting her children. She always prepare them early enough and takes them to school which takes her about 45 minutes as it’s a distance though sometimes their father offers them KES 50 for a motorbike.
More follow up visits were conducted during school holiday and a lot of progress has been noted both from the mother and the children. The children love school and they are now able to communicate simple words and stay with their clothes without removing. Their mother’s self-esteem has improved as she is able to communicate freely about the children progress unlike before when she used to shy off.
During follow up, I felt a lot of happiness when I joined Derrick and Nancy’s mother on their way to school. Despite the long distance to their school I could notice the smile on their mother’s face when villagers greeted us and called the children by their names. Their mother also kept on reminding me to listen to the children as they are now able to utter words and names unlike before. Nancy was also able to show me some signs that she required to go for a short call. This was amazing and I felt for sure that this is what it means to give a child a future.
Yes, you may refer it as transformation.
As a special needs programme officer with Vision Africa, getting children to school and supporting their families give me self-fulfillment. Specifically helping Derrick and Nancy to join school gave me energy to strive on and support more children in order to invest in future generations. More so, the joy of their mother and her improved self-esteem is a true picture that we can mould our community to become ambassadors of change. I feel that it’s an honour when parents listen and believe in me, referring me to other parents as their “Special child’s teacher”. As a result I don’t take it for granted and therefore look forward to supporting each family to set long term goals for their children with special needs.”