Special children with special needs
It was a real pleasure to visit the DCC in Maua and Athi School in October. I travelled with Heidi Sydor my sister. The journey was trouble-free and we even saw a number of elephants along the way!
Oliver Kirimi the manager of the DCC met us at the bus station in Maua and spent the week with us introducing us to various people and projects and talking about the work.
I was constantly mindful of my wish with HANDS AROUND THE WORLD to apply the principle of 'going deeper rather than broader' in order to make a significant lasting difference in the lives of the children.
I was concerned to discuss the high incidence of children born with disabilities - especially cerebral palsy - and the reasons for this; with Heidi we have discussed seeking a research project possibility.
We also discussed
the possibility of helping set up a sheltered workshop for school leavers with disabilities, to maximise their potential
the options around finding foster care for some children outside term time
a possible exchange visit in 2017
further equipment needed
I was struck again by the dire circumstances in which many people live, the remoteness of their homes and their very limited access to help, transport, special education etc.
The DCC building is looking much better since the recent work done through our supporters to help develop it. The physio treatment room is enlarged and better equipped, has child friendly murals and is a much brighter place. The workshop is improved but some of the equipment has to be used outdoors which is not ideal. Another workshop in the community might be a future option. Two pieces of equipment, a router and a suction machine (for making prostheses) have been requested.
We then went to Athi School and met Esther the head who had come in specially in spite of her father having died just 2 days earlier. The school looks good, there is running mains water although the storage tank tap leaks. The therapy room looks well finished but is very sparsely furnished with just 3 mattresses and no equipment. We talked at length about DCC physio input (once a month) for training and encouraging mothers and teachers to massage and stretch limbs etc.. The will is there and we hope that the people on the ground will carry out regular (daily) therapy.
Ann the 11 year old rescued by our recent physio volunteer Caroline has settled in well and is doing fine, although there are concerns over her care during holidays. (Esther takes some of the children home with her when she is worried about them)
The jewellery-making occupational therapy is doing well and we bought some items to bring back and sell. One small boy also showed me a functioning wooden torch he had made!
We were able to access a grant to construct new classrooms and this is under way, although the builder has been in hospital with a serious bout of malaria and there are some consequent delays. Now back at work; the first classroom is up to lintel height, one other has foundations and slab in, but the other is not started yet.
Esther is keen to be in in January which is a bit optimistic!
The next day we visited several special needs children at home – some disturbing cases. One with cerebral palsy had a very young mum who seemed to have no idea of the diagnosis or implications, was very needy herself and had never brought the child for assessment. Why would she go when she was so naïve and bewildered? How would she get there?
We met a 7 year old boy described as being unable to speak who could hear, but didn't respond appropriately; he had multiple untreated skin worm infections. He urgently needs pediatric assessment, not least to explore possible psychological overlay - an abuse victim?
Another boy, a little older, was also not speaking although he was obviously bright and able to understand. He could say 'mum' appropriately when prompted. He avoided eye contact and hid from nearby children coming to check out all the excitement! Another abuse victim?
On the way back to the DCC the 4x4 broke down. After battling through all the arduous terrain, several wheel nuts had worked loose and 2 bolts had sheared - the front driver's wheel was barely attached! We hobbled back with only about 2 out of 6 wheel nuts per wheel... Arriving in Maua at dusk, the market was very lively as new street lamps had just been erected throughout.
I was keen to buy some merchandise to bring home to sell on our market stall and found some wonderful things sold by a couple of Somali ladies.
On our last day, a bank holiday, the staff came in for a very interesting feedback meeting. Oliver Kirimi is very keen to be the first exchange visitor and I hope we can get him a visa to come for a few weeks next June-July.
We returned in the shuttle (express minibus) to Nairobi and had a surprisingly uneventful puncture. Several other minibus drivers stopped to offer assistance, jack and spare wheel when it became apparent that our spare was not only bald but flat. Everyday life in Africa...
A very interesting, busy and challenging week! Thank you very much for your support and encouragement. Please don't stop now!
DCC Physio treatment room
Athi treatment room is very sparsely furnished
The boy with his wonderful wooden torch!
Athi new classrooms rising