"I would search my heart and cry out to God to reveal to me what sin I had committed that had resulted in the birth of my disabled child…. Today I thank God for the teaching I have received. I don’t know why my child is disabled, but it is not because of something I have done. Only God knows why and my responsibility is to take good care of my son.”
Thirty children with disabilities and their parents listened to the testimony of one of the mothers who attended our day with “Enable the Children”, an organization under World Hope International (https://www.worldhope.org/our-work/health-and-nutrition/enable-the-children/). Last month, this mother took part in our “Theology of Disability” seminar for church leaders and other interested people. Now she could use what she learned to encourage others.
On Tuesday November 6, a team of seven rehabilitation therapists and counsellors from Enable the Children (including our friend Anna Vines) travelled from Freetown to Mattru to provide free assessments for the children with disabilities we have come to know through our work at the hospital. Over the last two weeks, as I was writing up profiles and taking pictures to prepare for the visit, we discovered that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. One day Jon & I went to a nearby village to find a boy with microcephaly I had lost touch with. Once people heard what we were doing, they brought us to a 2-year-old with severe bow legs, a deaf boy, and a boy with learning disabilities due to a congenital syndrome. We listened to their stories and decided give them an invitation as well.
We told the majority of children to come at 9 am and parents and children waited patiently for their turn to be seen. Two-year-olds to seventeen-year-olds enjoyed the wooden puzzles, stickers and coloring pages we provided.
So what were some of the things that were done?
- Osman, seven-year-old with clubfeet was referred to a free surgery program. We are hoping and praying that his family will receive the support to spend two to three months in Freetown before and after surgery.
- Ansumana, a three-year-old who spends his days slumped in a upside-down little table (hanging on to the bars between the wooden legs) was given a wheelchair which will help his posture and prevent contractions.
- Fatmata, who has a deformed leg, received new crutches adapted to her height.
- Bockarie and Yeama, two teenagers, received wheel chairs.
- Maseray received leg splints which she will have to wear at night to straighten her legs.
The caregivers who came along with these children (and quite a few others who didn’t need equipment) were taught how to do stretches and exercises to treat or prevent contractures or strengthen muscles.
The parents of Swaray, Kadiatu, Umu, Jinna, Davida and many others were counselled on teaching self-care skills, handling unwanted behaviour, etc. The caregivers of Mohamed Ali and Thomas were given exercises that can help improve speech.
Soon after the registration opened in the morning, a grandmother showed up carrying a severely disabled seven-year-old grandson. She begged that we would see him too. The team was able to assess him and take his measurements for a special chair which we are hoping to collect in Freetown soon.
We were not able to help everyone. Hawa, a twelve-year-old girl, sustained serious injuries to her left lower arm in an accident. No help was sought, the bones got infected, and her hand ended up severely deformed. An X-ray revealed that her wrist bones were basically gone. Surprisingly, Hawa has still a little use of her fingers. Surgery is too complicated for this country and all we can do is encourage her. Thankfully she lives very close to us so we frequently meet her on our walks.
Volunteers who had participated in the Theology of Disability training helped out in registering children and serving food. It was encouraging to see them put into practice some of the things they had learned.
After lunch we gathered everyone together to listen to teachings by the Enable the Children team on Cerebral Palsy and Autism. A mother gave her testimony and we enjoyed a live performance of the song “Noto debul, noto witch”, addressing the stigma that affects children with disabilities in Sierra Leone (https://youtu.be/OpvepJMRt84).
As everyone left, caregivers were already asking when the next meeting will be! The Enable the Children team has promised to come back in April, but we hope to be in touch with the children and their families and are looking forward to a Christmas celebration in December!
Please join us in prayer for this ministry. There is a definite need and we are prayerfully discerning how this work can be continued. We are grateful for the encouragement of local believers whose hearts God has touched as they attend our meetings. May they continue to be instruments in the hands of our Father.
|Behavioral Counselling for Caregivers|
|Physical therapy assessments|
|Jon took a day off from his hospital work (or at least attempted to!). His support has been a major blessing both in his medical care of the children and the love he is showing them.|
|Listening to the teaching.|
|Blessed by the love I see in this mother's eyes.|
|No doubt this little boy is happy!|
|Proud owner of a wheel chair.|