A Gift for Justus

Justus was born with the odds stacked against him.

His family lives in a very poor community in Kenya. At just one month old, Justus was struck with meningitis which led to cerebral palsy. His mother, Gladys, struggled to care for him and her other children.

When Justus was six years old, his father abandoned the family, making a hard life even more difficult for everyone in the family. Gladys does the best she can, managing to find menial daily jobs to earn a little money. But as a single mother with seven children, including one with debilitating medical issues, it can be overwhelming.

She spent countless hours in hospitals, trying to find doctors who would look at Justus—in those rare times she had the money to afford such care. With an unreliable job and a family to care for, she was constantly stressed and worried about their next meal, let alone paying for medical bills and the family’s ongoing needs.

In the Kibera community where Gladys, Justus and their family live, folks are challenged financially… and in every other way.

Young people find their way toward criminal activities, drugs, and alcohol due to the high poverty levels, according to Purity Wanja, a social worker in Kibera. Sanitation is sorely lacking, with sewage water running freely and garbage strewn about.

At the age of 12, Justus was discovered by community social workers. He was crawling in the mud because he couldn’t walk. The social workers encouraged his mother to admit him to Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC).

Once admitted, Feed the Children staff gave Justus a full examination and began an ongoing regimen of physical and occupational therapy. He was enrolled in the Dagoretti Special School to begin his education – Justus had never attended school before. In class, Justus learned the basics that kids around the world learn. He also received technical training in textiles and sewing.

And because Feed the Children supports keeping children connected to their families and communities wherever possible, Justus visited his family on weekends and during school holidays.

This work is only possible through your gifts–people like you, supporting children like Justus through donations, child sponsorship, or our gift catalog.

While in our care, Justus also began intensive therapy and underwent surgery to improve his mobility. The corrective surgery made his legs more flexible so he is able to walk better. The procedures also eased the pain which came along with his condition and made him more comfortable. In addition, he received a wheelchair, a pair of crutches, and some calipers to help brace himself as he walks.

And for Gladys and other mothers like her, Feed the Children gives professional advice on the care of children with disabilities. The social workers are in constant contact with the children and their guardians.

After completion of his technical course that was sponsored by Feed the Children, and once he’d met various milestones set by the rehabilitation team, Justus was reunited with his family in November 2010. But our work doesn’t end there—Wanja stays in contact with Justus and his family. Today, Justus is easy going and social, with a bright smile. He is friendly and polite, wonderful with children, and has a small babysitting business for friends and neighbors.

*7-2015 KE0009 - Justus (13)Now, at 23 years old, Justus just received another live-changing gift, thanks to Feed the Children and our supporters—a sewing machine. With this gift, he can take the textile training and expertise he gained at Dagoretti and use it to increase his livelihood—one of the four pillars of Feed the Children’s work around the world.

“I used to wish for one every day, but could not afford it,” Justus says. And his mother, Gladys, couldn’t be happier. “Everything starts from one step,” she says, “and this [sewing] machine is a step forward for Justus.” 

“The machine will be useful since now I can go ahead and work without waiting for help,” Justus says. “I have skills I can use.” 

And Justus’s new independence and self-sufficiency means Gladys now has more time to pursue her business interests. As we walked out of the house, she couldn’t contain her happiness for Justus in his business pursuits. She also seemed energized in her own quest for more income, despite the harsh conditions of their neighborhood.

Gladys concluded by saying, “I don’t know how I can repay what Feed the Children has done for us.”

We can’t do what we do without your support. Help a child like Justus today through a gift from our gift catalog. For just $75, you can provide care for a child with disabilities so they can move toward self-sufficiency and a bright future. Give today.

 

Caring for the Whole Child: World Disability Day

At Feed the Children, we are committed to supporting the health of children—it’s a vital key in eliminating hunger around the world and helping kids be kids. As part of this work, the Feed the Children office in Kenya celebrated World Disability Day on December 3. We joined with Nairobi County Government, the Ministry of Health, and other non-governmental organizations to mark the day, held at Nairobi Pentecostal Church.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities began in 1992 to promote awareness and mobilize support for persons with disabilities. Events around the world draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all. The theme for this year’s event was ‘Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities’.

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The Feed the Children office in Kenya has been providing care and protection for children living with disabilities since 1993.  Through the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, the organization provides thorough care to special needs children living at Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) and also to those living with their families in Nairobi, and Kajiado Counties.  The children living with disabilities and developmental delays have access to free occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and orthopedic services.

A child receives physical therapy from trained staff.
A child receives physical therapy from trained staff.

Through the generous support of Feed the Children sponsors, the project provides assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, calipers, and special seating aids, along with maintenance and repairs of those devices. We help put together forums to increase awareness of issues facing persons with disabilities and partner to prevent and treat various disabilities facing our communities. The project also partners with local hospitals to help children with the greatest needs undergo corrective surgeries, enabling them to live a decent and independent life.

Feed the Children also holds monthly workshops for parents who have children living with disabilities.  The workshops educate and equip parents with skills so they can help their children achieve optimal independence in activities of daily living.

To learn more about how you can sponsor a child, click here.

Why We Advocate for Ester

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.

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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?IMG_7970

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.

“Thank you, Feed the Children, for the food—this is a blessing from you and from God, and I hope you can keep helping us with our children.”IMG_7986

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!