27 October, 2015
In this second installment, CBM’s Church Engagement Lead Rob Nicholls reflects on hearing confronting stories from the Nairobi slums, and how CBM and its partners are a light in the darkness for many living in poverty with a disability…
Read Part 1
Partnerships are such a key way that CBM works, and we were reminded today about the importance of these partners with their intimate knowledge of the regions and people they work with. The incredible strength of the families (mostly mothers) we met and the quiet brilliance of the workers who link up to empower those families stood out for me today. These characteristics particularly stood out because of the apparent hopelessness of the environment where we met, the Mukuru slums – with a population of approximately 500,000 and little employment, very few homes with electricity and communal water taps and toilets.
Today we visited CBM partner Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), guided by a representative of the CBM East Africa Regional Office. After an introduction to APDK, we were shown some of the onsite work with physiotherapists and occupational therapists assisting people ranging from very young children through to adults. Many children miss out on early detection and remedial work because of the long delay in diagnosis.
Also onsite at APDK is an amazing factory producing large numbers of mobility devices such as this amazing ‘business tricycle’ (see below) and customised wheelchairs that negotiate the rough terrain of the schools and streets where people live. These are designed locally as well as being built in the local factory by local people, including a significant number of people with disabilities using mostly locally-sourced materials. It’s a model that is empowering on so many levels.
Eunice from APDK is part of the organisation’s Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, and together with her we traveled to the Mukuru slums.The attitude of the residents belies the apparent hopelessness of the slum.
We visited a primary school in Mukuru hosting a day care unit for young children with disabilities (mostly cerebral palsy), and a special unit within the primary school for older children with disabilities. We heard stories from six mothers with children with many common features. Unfortunately, they all had the common negative themes of no detection or diagnosis of disability before their child was one year old, desertion by their husbands when that diagnosis was made, isolation within their neighbourhood and struggles to survive because they had to stay home and not work. But through CBM’s partners, the positives were the great impact of being connected to the day care unit where their child improved through the support they got, being able to work while the child was in day care and the support groups that were formed by the mothers (and some fathers) that enabled them to gain confidence and advocate for themselves and their children.
I was greatly encouraged by these stories, and the resilience and determination of these mothers. The children had such potential and their presence within the school and the team formed by the mothers and APDK indicated to me that this potential could be realised. Mukuru didn’t seem as dark as when I first saw it.