In 2005 and 2006, my wife and I were spending an extended time in Kenya. During the Christmas season, we had the privilege of having my in-laws with us for Christmas during which, we made the long travel to the Masai Mara to see the famous safari as a break. On our travels, we stayed in an area called the Kakamega Forest, one of the last stands of jungle in this part of the world, and literally stayed in a tree house for the night (no joke!). We slept well but occasionally wondered what would crawl through the wall in the dark.
The evening before we crawled into bed, we met some locals, one of them being what appeared to be a mother and child. What we found out was that Eric was deaf and orphaned. He was staying with his Aunt in a typical Kenyan home. My mother in-law took a phone number and we carried on our way the next morning.
Let me paint a picture of the way persons in Kenya (among most Majority countries) are treated with any kind of disability. In Kenya, the government pays for Primary education, unless you are disabled in any way. The culture largely still believes that if a disabled child is born into a family, it is mainly because that family carries a curse on them. As a result, not only does the child not receive the education that his or her siblings would be entitled to, they are often shunned even within the family. The parents fear the stigma that these children being. Many do not even eat with the rest of the family. The parents will do their best to hide the child from the critical eyes in their community.
When we returned from our trip to our home in Kitale, I pretty much forgot about Eric but Mami, my mother-in-law, did not! As the rest of that year past, we found ourselves partnering with a Kenyan friend, Martin, in the sponsorship of Deaf and Handicapped children at a school that boarded deaf children. Eric was one of the first ones ReACT started sponsoring back then.
Just a month ago, I had the privilege of visiting Eric and the rest of the 77 handicapped students that ReACT sponsors between two schools in a town called Webuye. As we walked through the facilities with the Head Teacher, Eric showed up to our delight. Eric's face was bright with a wide smile when he saw us. We were told that Eric was one of the most responsible students at the school and had been given various extra responsibilities such as being a mentor to the younger boys. We were shown the room where about 25 younger students slept and were pleased to find out how Eric has been changed in his years there. Not only is he receiving a recognized education (he is in grade 5 now), but he is also growing as a young man with the confidence to be a mentor to those younger than he. What an amazing thing to witness!
There are many "Erics" at the school who have been given a second chance at life. No longer are they restricted to a life of carrying water living in isolation within their communities. The smiles attest to their new lives and hopes for the future. Their school marks and network of friends, teachers as well as many of you have brought them to a new place in life. Most of you will never know how far your support goes for these children until the next life but I have witnessed it and can wholeheartedly encourage you to continue the sacrifices you are making to see change come for the underprivileged of Kenya.
Its a simple thing to support a child in such a setting. Networking with the local people to care for their own is the most culturally relevant and cost-effective way we know of of seeing lives changed. Most of the children do not recognize us when we arrive since we are there so little. Our Kenyan friends Martin, Ruth and Mark are the links for these children and they are the ones who have developed relationships with these children. We have thought in the past about starting our own school for these children but our heart is to keep things as simple as they can be. Starting schools is just not cost-effective and too often not culturally relevant when the locals do it so well for so little. Our friend Steve is known for saying "Complicated things break down. Simple things multiply." We are delighted to keep it simple, be an unknown face visiting the school and yet witness other transformed lives like Eric's! Thanks for partnering with us to Reach African Children Together!