There is a line in the movie The Mission where a foreign Bishop exclaims, “Nothing quite prepared me....” This is how I felt during our recent assessment of disabled children in Saguire, a village where the Holy Rosary sisters run a catholic primary school.
Last year we were able to enroll two disabled students and since it brought such amazing change in their lives, we decided to open an entire classroom for special education students.
So, we had an announcement made over the public loudspeaker for those wanting education for their disabled children to come to our school. The news reached many of the villages outside the town. More than 40 families came, not just looking for education but for any help they could find for their disabled children and adults. Each story was sadder than the one before.
Heartbreaking and hopeful. That is how we ended the day. Some we can help, others we can refer to others organizations that will help them and others we can do little to help.
The amazing thing is how happy the parents were, to have someone to turn to in their need. I was so inspired by the woman who carried on her back her 14 year old sister paralyzed from the waist down. Their parents have passed. The older sister not only sought education but also asked to be employed as a cleaner in the school so that she could help with her sister when needed.
One boy with down syndrome is willing to walk one hour each way from his village to attend school! They inspire us to work hard to help them achieve their goals!
Our next step after assessment has been to coordinate with other charities in Ethiopia that provide assistance for those who need services other than school: Alemanchan for the boy with a deformed foot so he can have it corrected - Saba for wheelchairs - Horizons for sponsorship of poor families - Missionary of Charity sisters medical program for serious illness - Sebata School for the blind for the one blind student
Now we are waiting for the parents to take responsibility to take their children to Addis where these specialty services exist. We pay for their transport by bus but they have to take the initiative to travel which is not easy for many of them.
Then realizing that at our school three separate special education programs are needed:
1. A special education classroom for children with intellectual abilities
2. Physiotherapy for the children with intellectual and physical disability due to severe cerebral palsy
3. Inclusion for the deaf students into normal classes with sign language interpreters
For the next month I will be coordinating with different groups to see how we can get the support needed to start these three programs in our school. We need to train teachers, purchase special ed supplies and set up the programs.
In September, we will provide each student with school fees, uniform and transportation to the school since most cannot walk. As you see in the photo above, most of our students come to school in horse drawn carts known here as garries. There is also a need to educate garry drivers in the care of their horses! Once we contract them to carry our students, we will work on horse health with them also!
For many of the students we will also provide a scholarship for their siblings so they can stay together in the same school (St Mary is the best school in the area). Strengthening the family is very important since all family members play a role in caring for the disabled member. Meeting these families was a good reminder for me to be grateful to God that I have been given good health, and that when my family has health problems they have the best care to help them.
It is good we are here in this place; it is good that your support makes this all happen! Our friend Kaisa who is a Adaptive PE teacher is helping us learn more how we can help these children. Do you know any other resources we might contact for help with our students? Physiotherapists, special ed teachers, etc? We would love more help!
Please join me in praying that God will show us the way to bring the most good for these blessed children and the brave parents.