Everyone has felt alone at one point or another. Whether it was because of a relationship that ended, bullying at school, a painful divorce, or any one of the other millions of ways that we experience this hurtful feeling, we all stand underneath the same umbrella. And when you think about that feeling, perhaps you can understand the commonality you share with children with disabilities around the world.
Children with disabilities experience loneliness, too. Whether it’s neglect, abuse, or abandonment, children around the world are stigmatized simply because they have a disability. Now, imagine feeling that every day of your life. That’s the story of many children right now.
He had a disability and was believed to have been unwanted because of it.
A few years ago, there was a little boy named Brandon who was abandoned at a hospital in Uganda when he was just four years old. He had a disability and was believed to have been unwanted because of it, a common situation in much of the world. Thankfully, Amani Baby Cottage, an organization specialized in caring for children, quickly sought to help Brandon after a social probation officer contacted them.
Amani started caring for Brandon and, in the meantime, started running radio advertisements to search for his parents. They were able to find some distant relatives, but the parents were still missing. As time went on, they decided to pursue a means of more specialized care for Brandon. That’s when Ekisa was contacted.
At Ekisa, we believe children belong in families, not institutions. We recognize that both scripture and research affirm that children have the best opportunity to thrive within a family.
Ekisa’s social workers admired Amani’s proactive approach to help Brandon. But instead of taking Brandon to Ekisa’s residential home, Ekisa decided to support Amani in case management, specifically committing a social worker to aid in the case to find his family members and determine if that was a possible solution for his long-term care. At Ekisa, we believe children belong in families, not institutions. We recognize that both scripture and research affirm that children have the best opportunity to thrive within a family. Nevertheless, this is not always possible for children with disabilities, in part because of medical needs.
After coming together, the Amani and Ekisa team went back to work on tracing Brandon's family, digging deeper for any leads on their whereabouts. Eventually, they found them. First it was his grandparents, through whom they learned that Brandon's mother had moved far away. The father, on the other hand, lived nearby and was quickly contacted for a meeting. When the father saw Brandon, he said, “He is my blood!” He was excited to see his lost son and expressed his willingness to care for him.
While it was planned that Brandon would go home, there were many factors that had to be considered. After many in-depth discussions and visits, the family and social work team decided that keeping him in residential care was in his best interest; his multiple needed surgeries and health requirements required medical expertise. Family visits, however, would be organized, so that Brandon could remain as part of his family. Despite the many obstacles, those who have been serving Brandon report he is healthier and happier than ever.
Stories like this demonstrate just how complicated caring for children with disabilities and reintegrating them with family can be. The journey can be extremely difficult, cumbersome, and years of work. For those reasons, we recognize how important it is that organizations everywhere receive the support, training, and equipping they need to best serve a child with disabilities. Many people want to help, they just don't know how to best go about it.
It’s why we’ve started a new Training & Equipping department dedicated to helping more organizations to learn how to best serve children with disabilities. And because of the worldwide lockdown, we have a unique opportunity to do that. Organizations everywhere have developed their online and remote training programs.
So now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to reach these organizations through online training modules, consultations, and a resource library on disability. Once it is safely made possible, we are also excited to begin hosting in-person workshops. We are working to impact more kids like Brandon across the world. We are working to write a new global story of disability.