Category Archives: Child
The ability to read and write is hugely powerful. Women who can read have fewer children later in life, and the children they do have are much more likely to survive. Being literate helps people to find jobs, access information and make decisions about their lives.
Today, on International Literacy Day (8th September), we think about the 781 million adults who cannot read, write or count, and about what needs to be done to make sure that they have the opportunities to gain these valuable skills.
While the data is poor, we know that people with disabilities often have lower levels of literacy than people without disabilities. This is hardly surprising when you consider that in developing countries, as many as 9 out of 10 children with disabilities do not go to school.
In the last 15 years there has been a huge global effort to get more children enrolled in primary school. This has led to a drop in the number of children out of school from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million today. While this progress is huge, many children with disabilities have been left behind. In many low and middle income countries, having a disability more than doubles the chance of a child not going to school. In Nepal for example, 85% of children out of school have a disability.
If they do attend school, children living with disabilities are often more likely to drop out and leave school early. They are also less likely to be able to learn – because schools are not correctly equipped, teachers are not trained or because they are discriminated against. Often getting children in to school and making sure they have the opportunity to learn vital skills such as reading and writing involves small changes; in teaching methods, in physical accessibility or even just in attitude.
Illiteracy among adults with disabilities is even more prevalent than among children, because those who are adults today were less likely to attend school that today’s children. To address this, adult literacy programmes need to be inclusive of people with disabilities. More broadly, we need to make sure that information is provided in alternative formats so that those who are unable to read can still access it.
Goal 4 in the new Sustainable Development Goals recognises the importance of inclusive education and promotes learning for all, including lifelong learning. This is a huge step forward and an important opportunity to ensure that people with disabilities have the same chance to become literate as their non-disabled peers. CBM is advocating that in the indicators that measure the new goals school enrolment is broken down by disability. Because only when we have good data about how many children with disabilities are not in school will we really be able to reach them all. We are also advocating for an indicator on the number of trained teachers to teach children with special educational needs; because getting children into school is not enough.
We often talk about the cycle of poverty and disability, the fact that disability causes poverty, and poverty causes disability. Literacy is one way of breaking this cycle – because when people learn to read and write they are more able to participate in society and have the power to change their own lives.
Late last year, I had the opportunity to meet Valieth and Susana, two young sisters who had been identified through a community screening. They both had congenital cataracts. We arrived at their home and were greeted by the girl’s grandmother Fausta. As the she told us about their life and the challenges that she faced trying to take care of two young girls, she soon broke down in tears.
Fausta told me about the Bible verse that has helped her get through the hard times and give her the strength she needed and it is a verse that I have reflected on many times since my visit. James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.
Although I knew that the surgery for the girls would not be some magical fix for the family’s hard life, I knew that it would ease the burdens they face and provide the girls with a brighter future, giving the girls an opportunity when they grow up to repay their grandmother for her love and kindness.
When I returned to meet them at the end of June, I was not disappointed. I was greeted by the Fausta and the girls, who skipped and danced around me. Smiles beamed from their faces and I could see instantly that the support that CBM had given for the surgery was life changing. They were delighted with the teddy bears that had been given to CBM by one of our supporters and continued to play as I talked to Fausta, and I knew that for Valieth and Susana that life had changed for the better.
I showed the family a printed version of their story with photos from last year, and they gathered around remembering the day that they had travelled to hospital and had their sight restored. I also shared with Fausta prayers from supporters in the UK for which she was truly touched. I felt humbled by the thanks that she gave to CBM and wished that our supporters could feel this joy first hand.
The girls have been back to the hospital for follow up, but will need to go again, it is likely that they will both need glasses and Valieth will potentially need more treatment on one of her eyes to ensure she has the best vision possible. But the future is looking brighter now, the girls are enrolled in school and are fulfilling Fausta’s dream of getting an education.
My precious son, Benjamin died on May 11th 2013, aged 16. Benjamin lived with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. In his case this meant being a wheelchair user, being non-verbal, being tube fed into his stomach via a gastrostomy and being physically dependent for all his basic needs.
But like millions of people living with a disability around the world, Benjamin was a shining light to those who knew him, a portal through which people got a glimpse of grace, and the very heart of God. He had an extra special awareness of God in his own life and could see Him in the lives of others. I haven’t got the space here to tell you how that panned out in Benjamin’s life, but I do want to explore what it is that makes people with disability so precious to God.
Theologian Richard Rohr says this ‘The Bible is extraordinary because it repeatedly and invariably favours the people on the bottom, and not the people on the top.’
The Church, and society in general, have moved a long way from this Biblical solidarity with the powerless. Once it was at the centre of the establishment and had, in the main, lost its revolutionary identity, the Church became a bit embarrassed by this powerless, bleeding, crucified loser from Galilee, Jesus. He ended up an accused criminal for goodness sake and died that way, disempowered, disgraced, disabled, on a cross.
Sure, we have maintained our worship of Him, but who wants to end up like Jesus? Who wants to be ridiculed, treated, at best, like a second class citizen? Who wants to be pushed, ignored, and spoken about as if they weren’t there, having to listen to what is being said about them?
There is something that is more than a bit weird about the majority of us! Many of us worship this illegitimate, Palestinian street kid who was born surrounded by dung in an animal trough. The vast majority of us at least acknowledge His existence at Christmas, some of us may take pride in the fact that we follow ‘The Son of God,’ we may consider ourselves to be compassionate beings, but in the nitty-gritty of daily life we want to be winners, successful, on top.
Yet it was to those who were defiled, considered by the religious people of the day to be ‘unclean’, that Jesus not only hung out with but found a special place in His heart for.
Who are those people in today’s world? Those with learning and physical disabilities, minority groups, women (in some cultures), refugees, the addicted, people who are trafficked, those persecuted for their sexual orientation, the prisoner, the homeless – in fact anybody who does not fit nicely into a neatly constructed social system.
But it is those very people, the people that God is so passionate about, who are the most effective demonstrators of the Gospel.
As Fr. Richard Rohr puts it ‘these are the ones who represent what we are most afraid of within ourselves, what we most deny within ourselves.’
People with a disability were, and I would argue, still are, partners in the ministry of Jesus: The man of Luke 5:19 who was lowered by his friends through a hole in the roof to meet Jesus is one example. Yes, of course, his friends helped him – that’s what friends do – but it was the man with a disability who not only encountered Jesus himself, but was the gateway through which his mates also had an encounter!
Or there’s the man who is blind in John 9:1. When asked by his disciples who it was that had sinned, the man himself or his parents, Jesus explained that the man was this way so that the Kingdom of God could be seen?
How inspiring! How counter-cultural. CBM UK and our grassroots Partners are with people with various disabilities, living in the poorest communities on the planet. CBM is about enabling, empowering these people to have access to their rights and potential, but it is the person with the disability who is the inspiration, and the portal through which we, and many others besides, get a glimpse of grace.
As the UK celebrates Mothering Sunday this weekend, 15th March, we’d like to tell you about one very special mother. Roy is 26 years old and has four children. She lives with her husband Ronald and four children in a remote village in Uganda, East Africa, about 100km northeast of the capital, Kampala.
Like millions of mothers around the world, Roy works hard to support and care for her children. It’s not easy to bring in enough money for the day-to-day essentials and school fees for her two older children – primary education is not free in Uganda. She and Ronald eke out a living growing sweet potatoes, maize and beans and making bricks.
But what makes Roy particularly amazing is that one of her four children – Denis, aged 8 – is actually her half-brother. He came to live with Roy and Ronald just a year ago. We’ve been sharing Denis’ story recently as thanks to CBM supporters, he is currently being treated for Blount’s Disease, which causes his legs to bend and makes walking slow and painful.
Denis had been abandoned by his biological mother and was living with his father. But he was not treated well.“While all other children at my father’s place were sent to school, Denis was neglected. He didn’t bring the boy to a doctor or send him to school. Instead the father gave him funny and abusive names because of his disability. He has even beaten the boy”, explains Roy.
Sadly, due to the stigma attached to disability and the lack of support and education for parents, this story is all too common. But Roy looked at Denis and saw a boy who needed love and care. She took him in and is now mother to him, along with her three other children.
Without treatment, Roy knows that Denis’ future would probably be bleak. “If he remains with this condition he will face very difficult times in future. He may never be independent. He may need help at all times. He will have a lot of pain and his mobility will always be limited. And he might never find a woman who wants to marry him”.
But the treatment for Blounts’ Disease is far from easy for an 8 year-old to go through. Denis spent a tearful night in hospital before his surgery, a long way from home. Since initial surgery to straighten his leg, he has to wear a metal brace or “fixator” on his leg, with daily physiotherapy exercises that often cause him pain.
It’s hard to imagine how a child could go through treatment like Denis’ without a mother’s love and support. Roy is with him every step of the way. At hospital, hers was the first face he saw when waking up from surgery, encouraging him to drink some tea and then have a rest. Before travelling home with him, she learned about the exercises he must do to ensure that his leg heals strong. Every day, she encourages him to do his exercises, encouraging him to persevere in spite of the pain. She must also work hard to help Denis keep his wound clean to prevent infection – not easy when you live in a dusty environment with no electricity or running water at home.
CBM supporters, outreach workers and doctors are all playing a vital role in helping Denis on his treatment journey, which is vital for him to build a better future. But without Roy by his side, showing him a true mother’s love and care, none of this would be possible.
Tobias Pflanz is CBM’s Field Communication Manager. In January 2014, he met 8 year-old Denis, who suffers from Blounts Disease, which makes walking slow and painful. Thanks to CBM supporters, Denis has started treatment to straighten his legs at CoRSU hospital in Uganda, East Africa. Tobias is following Denis’ progress, meeting him regularly and sharing updates. In this blog, he shares his personal response to Denis’ story.
Denis’ story has moved me deeply right from the start. Despite his disability, the pain in his legs, in spite of so many challenges and sadness in his everyday life – other children laughing at his deformed legs – Denis is still a cheerful boy. He enjoys singing and joking around with his nieces and his little nephew. His joyfulness touched my heart immediately.
And then there is his half-sister Roy who adopted Denis into her young family when their father abandoned the boy. Roy and her husband don’t have much and have to care for their own three children. Nevertheless, Roy did not hesitate to take the boy in and look after him as if he was her own son. That impressed me: having a child with a disability would be a curse in the eyes of many people here. But Roy clearly loves Denis.
Still, she couldn’t afford to pay for any intervention. Denis is another strong example that shows why the work of CBM and our partners – like CoRSU Hospital – is so important. Only through one of CoRSU’s outreach clinics did Roy get the information that help was available – and that there was hope.
I showed pictures of Denis from before intervention to my 6-year-old daughter. She asked me: “Daddy, can CoRSU help Denis?” I said: “It will take some time, but in a few months Denis will have legs almost as straight as yours.” “That’s great”, my daughter exclaimed. “Will you then show me pictures of him again?” I certainly will.
I’m the Programme Manager for CBM UK and I visited Luz and her family when I was in Peru. I am enclosing a short report that I wrote after my visit.…
I met Jeick and his mother Luz at their home in Lima, Peru, where they live with Luz’s mother, four brothers and sisters and their children. A small space for such a large family.
Luz explained about the traumatic birth of Jeick which resulted in him being born prematurely at 27 weeks, weighing just over 1kg. Luz became upset as she described the experience which bought back memories of how she felt at the time, not knowing if her son was going to live or die, let alone see.
Luz had to leave Jeick in hospital after just three days, where he stayed for a further two months. She struggled to look after her other two children and visit the hospital every day to see Jeick. It took Luz an hour and a half to reach the hospital each day and the costs soon started to add up.
Luz showed us photos of Jeick from when he was born and still in an incubator. He looked so tiny and vulnerable.
Jeick was regularly screened for ROP where staff had been trained by CBM’s partners in Lima. At three months old he was diagnosed with ROP and given an urgent appointment. But by this point Luz could not afford to pay for the transport to hospital and so they could not make this first appointment.
When we stepped in to pay for her transport, our ophthalmologist was able to urgently conduct the laser treatment and after a short stay in hospital Jeick was able to return home.
It’s been over four months now since Jeick had his treatment and his vision continues to develop extremely well; early signs are that he will have good eye sight and potentially not even require glasses.
Luz told us how thankful she was for the treatment and support she received from CBM It was a real inspiration to meet Luz and hear about her experience and how CBM had made such a vital difference to their lives – not only had we provided sight saving treatment, but we also supported Luz in the rehabilitation process. Luz says she is very grateful for the treatment that Jeick received thanks to the programme and is very happy that her “angelito de diós” (little angel of God) is doing so well now.
Seeing Jeick now, you would never know what a traumatic experience he and his family went through. A real pleasure to see such a happy family.
Next stop was Antsirabe, 3 hours drive south of Antananarivo at CRMM (Centre du Reeducation Mortrice de Madagascar) – a dedicated orthopaedic disability hospital. Here we are running a ponseti training course for 26 practitioners, and operating on neglected clubfoot surgical cases.
CRMM here, and CAM in Antananarivo are “pilot centres” for the Madagascar Clubfoot Project. With the support of CBM, we will make further visits over the next 12 months and then we’ll select a local faculty of clubfoot trainers who will be able to instruct clubfoot practitioners throughout Madagascar.
The vision is to create a national network of clubfoot treatment centres – ensuring that every child born with clubfoot in Madagascar will have access to treatment and that the disability of clubfoot will be prevented. CBM desperately needs ongoing funding in able to achieve this goal.
I’m Steve Mannion, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon with CBM.
Madagascar, a country of 24 million people is estimated to have over 15,000 children and adults suffering the disability of neglected clubfoot, with nearly 1000 babies being born with the clubfoot each year. Currently there is no coordinated national project for clubfoot treatment, there are very few trained practitioners trained in the Ponseti method (the most effective method of treatment in babies), and only one surgeon in the entire country with the skills to operate on neglected cases.
I have been invited to conduct training courses and demonstrate neglected clubfoot surgery at two centres in Madagascar, as CBM is determined to eliminate clubfoot disability in Madagascar.
On this trip we conducted a Ponseti training course at CAM, the Centre d’Appairallage de Madagascar, the major rehabilitation clinic in the nation’s capital Antananarivo.
25 practitioners attended the course, a combination of surgeons, rehabilitation doctors, physiotherapists and orthotic (brace) technicians. I had faculty assistance from Michiel Steenbeeck, a CBM advisor and expert in brace production and Dr Leonard Banza, a CBM orthopaedic surgeon working in Malawi.
As part of the course, 20 babies with clubfoot were assessed and casted. Their continued treatment will be undertaken at CAM, funded by CBM.
15 cases of neglected clubfoot were also assessed with 5 cases (9 feet) being selected for operations which were undertaken later.
In theatre I was able to instruct a Malagasy paediatric surgeon, Dr Raherison, in the techniques of neglected clubfoot surgery and he undertook the later cases under my supervision.
We’ve been busy in Antananarivo, but it’s been so worthwhile. Next, we’ll be heading to Antsirabe…
Tikale had a traumatic cataract in his right eye. He was trying to get through some bushes to cross a road, when one snapped back and caught him strongly in the eye. Within a week his vision clouded over, and by the time a month later when he made it to the hospital he was blind in that eye.
I was happy to arrive back in Nkhoma during the rains. They shouls have started in ernest 2 months ago, but have been somewhat scanty over the past weeks. The crops are surviving in the central region and over the past week we have had a number of huge down pours to soak the fields and keep fears in the villages about drought, failing crops and possible famine at bay. The country is completely different now… a green garden of Eden!
Some awesome electrical storms pass over Nkhoma. I was in the house during one two nights ago, and the thunder and lightning happened simultaneously as bright flashes surrounded the house. Poor Ellie ran for cover under the bed. I found out the next day that two cows were struck by lightning in neighbouring Dzuwa village. The owner of the cows fainted at the time, but is absolutely fine now. She still has six more cows, and villagers have been coming around to buy beef.
After less than two months of rain