28 October, 2015
In this third installment, CBM’s Church Engagement Lead Rob Nicholls tells us of the experience of seeing people having their bandages removed after surgery and his trip out into Masai country. See Part 1 and Part 2.
As we waited for the speech about how to look after yourself following cataract surgery, one of the men who had just had his dressing removed stood up and addressed all those present. He praised the work of AIC Kajaido and then addressed us, the sponsors with the words, “you have sponsored the right people!” That was a good summary of our experience of visiting the work of African Inland Child Centre in Kajiado. This work includes education, physiotherapy, orthopaedics, dispensary and in-home support.
The Director of AIC Kajaido, Daniel, spoke to us of the work there amongst the Masai people and of the importance of early intervention for children with disabilities and, therefore the outreach work into the Masai rural communities in the Kajaido district. He spoke of children with disabilities who may not have lived, becoming influential people in the community. Daniel himself was an example of a Masai child who had become disabled through polio, received an education and is now impacting many people. The predominant condition now faced by the centre is cerebral palsy. Daniel told us of the efforts being made to improve maternal heath and obstetrics to prevent the growth of this condition. There are cultural issues, including a preference for home birth, as well as the shortage of available services to many isolated women, which all contribute to this.
Daniel introduced us to the physiotherapist, Joseph, who showed us the work of his area. This work included post-operative work and working with children with club foot. The distances that people had to travel, mostly walking for many hours, meant that it was often important to provide on-site accommodation and to provide in-home support. We were soon to discover what that meant. We were given the opportunity to visit two families who were having in-home visits that afternoon.
Before we headed for the bush, we had the amazing experience of watching as 10 people had their bandages removed following cataract surgery the previous day. We watched as 7 women, 2 men and one boy blinked and enjoyed the experience of restored sight. One man exclaimed as he saw clearly the people in front of him and we saw the 10 year old boy read for the first time since he’d had an accident over a month ago. The women in our group had some warm conversations with the Masai women as they celebrated being able to work on their ornate jewellery again, amongst other things. Julius who managed the dispensary spoke of the enormous challenge of tackling the health issues such as cataracts, club foot and cerebral palsy and the recent establishment of a small maternity unit on site.
The trip into Masai country was an adventure in itself. It felt like we had our own impromptu safari as we drove along some very rough tracks and found ourselves walking through the gate of an authentic Masai busma compound and negotiating the smoky darkness of a manyatta (house). We, with a group of women and children there, watched as Joseph set up a sitting and standing frame in one busma and delivered a customised wheelchair in another.
The Masai are a strong and dignified people with a strong commitment to maintaining traditions and culture. Of course, this is a very important goal but we also heard from Daniel of the determination of he and his team to modify some traditions when it comes to maternal health and disability. He noted that they were committed to every person with a disability being enabled to live a full and inclusive life. He asked that we pray for him and his team as they work with the Masai people. They face enormous challenges but all staff spoke of their faith that God is with them in this challenge.