Kenya's Little Angels
EVERY child who comes into the world should be looked upon as a blessing, but sadly, in some countries, that is not always the case. Kericho in Kenya is one such place. There, a child who is born with or who later develops a disability, is seen as a ‘curse’ on its parents, who are in turn ostracised and cast out from their extended family and community. To stay within their home, their extended family would be ‘cursed by association, so the parents and children are left with no option other than to leave their community, family and friends. This leaves them feeling isolated, alone and lost to all those who love and care for them.
However, all is not lost for these families as the vacuum of love and care is being filled by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who work out of the Live With Hope Centre (LWHC), located in the Motobo area of Kericho town. The sisters—including Greenock-born Sr Placida McCann—embarked upon an ambitious project to tackle the stigma associated with disabled children in the country, which goes by the name of The Little Angels Support Project, supported by Missio Scotland.
“Our job is to remove the stigma and to let people know that these children are blessings that bring out love in people,” Sr Placida said.
The Little Angels Support Project was developed to provide care and support to disabled children and their families. Not only is there the societal stigma to contend with, but also the fact that disability is an under-resourced issue due to a lack of government funding and, additionally, these hidden children are not able to access the healthcare services that are available. For the most part, disability projects and services rely largely on charities and charitable activities. This project seeks to provide: education for children and their parents; clothing and bedding access to health services and medical aids such as crutches; play and exercise activities to reduce isolation and build confidence and food and resources so that families can grow their own produce. Most importantly, the project builds a community again, helps to develop relationships and heal feelings of abandonment, anger and resentment, and works to dispel the myth that disability is a ‘curse.’
“It’s a really unique project,” Sr Placida explained. “Little Angels goes deep into villages to find those in need of care and attention. We have a small vehicle that goes all over the county to different areas to let people know that the children who were once locked up and hidden away can now be brought out. It is a support group for parents of disabled children as well as the children themselves.”
An example of one of the children who has been attended to by the Little Angels Support project is a young boy named Amos. When the sisters encountered Amos, he was four years old and had Cerebral Palsy. His small frail body was that of a two-year-old, he was underweight through malnourishment and had limited mobility. Each day, he was left alone for up to eight hours. He developed sores because he lay in the same position for lengthy periods. His body
ached because he had no real bed—his ‘bed’ was a hard, mud floor. Amos had little interaction with anyone outside of his family and has no access to education or healthcare.
Due to the stigma of having a disabled child, Amos’ parents were forced to leave their home, their families and their jobs and move to Kericho. Each day, Amos’ mother and father faced the most horrendous choice—leave their disabled son alone in a mud hut they call home, or stay with Amos; talk to him, turn his weak body to stop sores developing, and comfort him when he suffered from pains of hunger on top of his already increasing agony. If they stayed with Amos they wouldn’t earn any money for food, if they left Amos alone they were at least able to provide nourishment for him. They had no other option than to leave Amos.
To assist them, the Little Angels Support Project helped him to attend hospital for assessment and physiotherapy. Amos was also provided with a small mattress and covers to keep him warm and comfortable. That may be something we often take for granted, but such a simple comfort can vastly improve the quality of life by reducing pain and helping a child have a comfortable place to rest and sleep.
A startling aspect of the project, however, was one of the revelations with regards to some of the children who were being cared for by it at its inception.
“The Little Angels group has grown since its inception and now caters to more than 111 children with various disabilities,” Sr Placida said. “However, we actually found that some of the children were not disabled at all, they were simply hungry and because they were hungry, they looked mentally ill, so when you give them food and help the family, the kids are brought back to life again. That was quite shocking.”
Each year, Missio Scotland supports life-changing and life-saving services like The Little Angels Support Project, so please continue to pray for us and donate to us, because your prayers and donations are not only much appreciated by us, they are vital to those who provide such services and those who avail of them.