Sitting in the hot Ugandan sun is a girl. She is just outside the Nkokonjeru hospital, a small cluster of buildings inside a compound, broken shards of glass cemented atop the walls like barbed wire to keep unwanted visitors from scaling the walls to get inside when denied entry at the gates. People cluster in the waiting room and the guard sits idly at the gate post. The girl has a sign pinned to her back. It reads: “Enough is enough.”
Blessing has Cerebral Palsy and is entirely deaf. She is non-verbal, wheel-chair bound or has to crawl to get around, with limited learning capacity – the extent of which is unknown. When she was left outside the Nkokonjeru hospital, her family unable to care for her any longer, Blessing’s outlook was bleak. Luckily, she was taken in at Providence Home, a facility where the Little Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi care for disabled and vulnerable people in the Nkokonjeru area. It is a very unique facility handling many special needs children and adolescents suffering from emotional and/or behavioral disorders, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, missing limbs, and developmental disabilities.
The sisters believed that Blessing could achieve more and they reached out to CARITAS For Children to find a sponsor to support her education. Another continent away, high school students at the International American School of Warsaw in Poland were moved when they heard Blessing’s story. For two years these teenagers have been raising money on their own to sponsor Blessing’s education, allowing her to attend Bishop West School in Mukono, Uganda.
Bishop West is one of the few schools in Uganda that specializes in education of special needs children. A visit to Bishop West in October of 2014 revealed that Blessing is thriving: she has acquired basic math skills to manage money, she can write her name, and is learning to become a seamstress in order to support herself. She has friends to keep her company, and after mastering the basics of sewing will also learn basket weaving.
Unfortunately, not all people in Uganda with special needs are as fortunate. Special needs children have a very difficult life in traditional African society. The child is a burden and stigma to the family, often considered to be a curse and an evil omen. Many of these children are left alone in a house by themselves for the whole day, lying on a couch or a mat, while their parents work. Ultimately, many families cannot afford the financial strain of caring for their children with disabilities.
Providence Home is a safe haven for these children. They are loved, and often for the first time in their lives, are treated with respect and given the dignity they deserve. Apart from providing care for these children and other vulnerable people, the Little Sisters at Providence Home seek to provide them with the tools to become self-reliant. For children this means classroom learning, and later the development of hands on skills. For adults living with disabilities, they provide the opportunity to learn a trade. Currently Providence Home residents produce bags, hats, baskets, jewelry, and shoes. Some of the jewelry is shipped to the United States by a patron and sold to benefit Providence Home, but the majority of it is sold in the central region of Uganda. A portion of the proceeds goes to the individual who made the item, providing them with a means of income, and the rest pays for materials and maintaining Providence Home.
As children such as Blessing continue to grow and thrive at boarding school through the support of sponsorship, over break they still need a place to return home where they will receive love and care. Providence Home is that place. The Little Sisters often check up on the children while they are at school, and make sure they are there for the start of term and safely brought back home at term’s end. Providence Home works not only to provide care for disabled and vulnerable people in the Nkokonjeru area in the here and now, but also hope for their future.
CARITAS For Children is expanding its child sponsorship programs to serve additional children with disabilities. A visit to our website will reveal the periodic addition of special needs children who will win a place in your heart. You can see all of the children who are available for sponsorship by clicking here.
If you would like to sponsor a child and would like to discuss sponsoring a child with special needs, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.