At Feed the Children, we focus our work on things that will help kids be kids. That means all kids. Not just kids in a certain country. Not just kids from a particular faith. Not just kids of a given ethnicity. Not just kids with specific ability.
When we say we have a mission to provide hope and resources for those without life’s essentials, that’s what we mean. No exclusions.
But that’s easier said than done for kids like Ester.
Ester is a happy 10-year-old—you’ll often see her with a smile. She lights up when she’s with her friends and cousins, or when she’s watching her family’s ducks waddle and peck, or when she’s listening to a good story.
Ester lives in the economically depressed community of Quezalapa 2, El Salvador, about 16 miles outside of the capital city, San Salvador. The community’s diet is based on rice, beans, vegetables, eggs, and tortillas, but Ester’s family can only afford to eat once a day, and most of their meals are limited to tortillas and beans—hardly the building blocks for a healthy child.
Most of the areas of the community have piped water service at home, but during the summer months, the water shortage reduces the service to only once every six days. But even that would be better than the non-potable water Ester’s family has to work with. They live on the edge of a ravine, where no public services reach.
The family is large and close-knit, 13 of them in all. Ester lives with her parents and little sister in a tiny house on the same land as her cousins and aunt, but they essentially live together—the kids all call each other brother and sister. Their houses are made of adobe and bamboo walls, sheet metal roofs, and dirt floors. They don’t have electricity or toilets—outside of the houses there is a latrine that they share with three neighbors.
But they’re a family, and that means they do everything they possibly can for each other.
Ester’s siblings and cousins learn and eat every school day at the center that Feed the Children runs in their community—but she has to stay home. Ester has cerebral palsy.
She doesn’t have the strength to hold objects in her hands, so she can’t feed herself. She can’t walk, so she’s wheelchair bound. And although her mind is absolutely there, Ester can’t speak. So her disability prevents her from attending a regular school. And unlike the resources available for kids with disabilities in the U.S., there are no accommodations, no special schools, and no affordable therapies for Ester in Quezalapa.
The areas where free therapy is provided for people with disabilities are out of reach for Ester. The main road that leads to San Salvador is inaccessible for her family: They would have to carry her 2.5 miles from the edge of the ravine, up an extremely rocky, twisting path. And even if they made it all that way to the road, they might have a very long wait for the sole bus that serves their community, which could very well be too full to accommodate her wheelchair. Besides, who can really choose bus fare over food?
So while Ester’s dad works as a farmer, earning around $2 a day, her mom and aunt take care of her at home. Ester loves the “home therapy” her mom gives her while she’s getting her dressed each day. She massages Ester’s hands, legs, and feet to relax her always-tensed muscles and to prevent blood clots from forming. She cleans and feeds her, and she’s deeply grateful for the meal that comes for Ester at noon:
“I’m happy because you are a big help for us. It’s very difficult for us to get food for this big family, and before you came we didn’t have a way to provide the nutritious food that you provide to our children.”
When Ester’s cousins come home from the feeding center, they bring her meal back with them. Because we fortify food at our center with vitamins and nutrients that kids need to grow healthy and strong, Ester’s mom has help in battling her daughter’s malnutrition.
We want to keep helping Ester until she doesn’t need help anymore, but with the limitations of her disability, that could mean her whole life. So that’s why we do more than just provide food.
At Feed the Children, we pursue advocacy initiatives that get us closer to our vision to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We are a global family, and that means we do everything we possibly can for each other.
One of our recent advocacy campaigns is the Disability Treaty. The Americans with Disabilities Act is the gold standard for the non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, and inclusion for children and adults with disabilities, and the Disability Treaty is a 130-country-strong push to get those same protections for people worldwide.
According to the U.S. Department of State, “The challenge now is to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Treaty for the benefit of the world’s one billion disabled people.”
As our staff has written about the Disability Treaty here in greater depth, the U.S.’s ratification of the treaty would provide greater accommodations for those with special needs around the world. So Feed the Children speaks up in Washington, and we urge you to do the same, wherever you are.
We are advocates for Ester. We are advocates for all kids. And they need you to be an advocate too. Click here to learn more about how you can use your voice to help kids be kids!