‘If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion’– DALAI LAMA
The week before last i was back in Nairobi. After my first visit on Boxing Day, when I came back to the UK, I collected more clothes kindly donated for the children. There was that many from one friend alone who donated her sons clothes that he had outgrown, there was no space to take anymore on this trip but could be saved for the next trip.
I contacted Sister Mary before I headed to Nairobi to let her know I had more clothes for the children and she arranged for us to be picked up the day after our arrival by one of the lovely project workers. We first went to the St Bakhita Primary School where they have the offices so we could leave the clothes for distribution and then we had a tour of the school. The school was built by donations and actually built within the slums as this meant it was accessible for the children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to get to the school and so that the walk wasn’t to far. Within the school grounds are areas where older children and young adults can learn skills to help them gain some kind of employment. For example, a hairdressing area, a small cafe/restaurant to learn cooking skills, an arts and craft area so their talents can be encouraged then the art sold so they can earn some money from that. There is even a DJ class which I found an amazing idea due to the culture of music and young people.
After visiting the school, we headed over to the Songa Mbele Na Masomo Children’s Disability Centre. Since driving past this on my last visit, it was somewhere I really wanted to go. Once we arrived we were kindly greeted and given a tour round to see what they do and to meet the children. We were taken into one room and that’s where I could feel my heart break. There was around 10 children all with different levels of Cerebral Palsy amongst other disabilities and for all these children there was 2 care staff. It was lunch time and because of my care background, I just had the natural urge to want to sit down and help feed them their lunch so I’d step forward, then back, then forward again but I didn’t want to disturb their routine or put them off eating by seeing a new face so we just went and said hello and chatted to the children that weren’t eating. Of course there is a language barrier so I find just a little stroke to the face, holding their hand or just getting down to their level so you can make eye contact are ways that you can let them know you’re there because you genuinely care.
All the children are from the slums and due to a different culture surrounding disabilities, they are often from single parent families as we were told it is very common that when the fathers realise the child has a disability, they leave because they think there is a bad gene or something wrong with the mother. It’s heartbreaking to hear but the centre gives them a quality of life to a certain extent that they wouldn’t get in the slums and gives mum or parents a chance to go out to try and earn some money .
The care staff are absolutely amazing who work there. I was trying to explain how the care system works in the UK but they just couldn’t believe that there was a system in place that provided equipment and 2:1 staff for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. They told me that that once the children left the centre at the end of the day, they didn’t even have a wheelchair as they belonged to the centre for all the children and if they were to let the wheelchairs leave the centre, they would probably not be returned or could be damaged meaning all the children would lose out then. I just left the room feeling so helpless but it makes you realise that although the system isn’t perfect, how lucky people actually are in the UK with the resources that can be accessed and the protection and safeguarding that is in place.
We went back out then to meet some of the other children and play some games, some of who were ‘drop-outs’. I asked how they were drop outs at such a young age but what that meant is that they may have had to drop out of school due to not being able to afford to get there, they may have lived to far away from schools or it could be parental or family issues. Which then makes absolute sense why the schools etc are built within the slums. The centre gives them a year to get back into their education and catch up then from that, they can hopefully progress further.
My next task is to try and collect some disability equipment i.e Sensory Equipment, soft play items and just things they can use in the centre. Children’s sunglasses as well as once I put mine on one of the children, they all had a whale of a time all wanting to try them on then running off with them as they didn’t want to give them back ☺️. I have to say though as heartbreaking as it is to see the children in there who have absolutely nothing, I have never actually seen happier children(which made me cry again) and I am in awe of them and the work of everyone there and within the whole Mukuru Promotion Centre.
*DISCLAIMER* – All permission received to take and use pictures to highlight the amazing work of the staff and everyone involved in the Mukuru Promotion Centre 🙏🏻
For more information on the Mukuru Promotion Centre: http://www.mercymukuru.co.ke