I remember in my first year working at Ekisa hearing about our “waiting list.” The year before, Ekisa’s Community Care Program had just brought on dozens of new families that would be receiving the services and support their children needed. However, there were still dozens more and the list continued to grow each month.
Impact, growth, and reach — these are all factors that daily affect and drive decisions for non-profit organizations just like Ekisa Ministries. The danger, however, can come when these things become an end in themselves, rather than a means to an end. The goal must never be for an organization to grow so that it can be bigger and better; the goal must be that more people are impacted. Fighting for people, fighting for something deep inside that we know is true, right, and just will motivate and drive us further than money or fame ever could.
Hearing about the waiting list at Ekisa was difficult, but it wasn’t until I saw the 80 names of children with my own eyes that I was cut to the heart. Cathay, Asiina, Kevin. 2 years old, 3 years old, 13 years old… Jennifer, Edison, Zahara…
At that moment, that list of 80 took on a whole new meaning. The power that a name can have compared to a number is mind-blowing. That deep-down-to-your-core motivation was stirred in me to make an impact, not for Ekisa… but rather each name on that list.
Over time, I increasingly saw how much further the problem extended beyond that list, and I gained a broader understanding that children with disabilities all around the world are often not able to access what they need. I saw them getting left behind and not addressed in programs, government reforms, and projects all designed to help vulnerable children. I received countless phone calls and emails over the years from organizations in Uganda asking if we can take a child onto our program because they can’t help them. There were many more from other countries asking if we could come and start something where they are because there is no one helping children with disabilities in their communities. What I learned was that other organizations simply don’t know what to do. But what matters much, much more than not knowing something, was that they wanted to help. Non-profit organizations around the world clearly don’t want children with disabilities to be left behind and not addressed; they just don’t know how to help. Well, one thing I know to be true is that if someone has enough motivation, you can teach them anything.
We have learned a lot at Ekisa over the past decade through many successes and many failures. We have grown in our understanding of the root causes of why children with disabilities are often lacking what they need, why they are forgotten, or why they are discriminated against. So, in order for more of those names on the global list of children with disabilities waiting to receive what they need to thrive, Ekisa is going to take everything we know and have learned and get it into the hands of others.
Replication has become part of the heart of Ekisa. We desire to replicate our own programs in Uganda, but also to make everything we do replicable by others so they can reach children with disabilities wherever they are. We want to reach more children, but far greater than that, we want more children to be reached. So, we are becoming an airplane engine. I love planes and have spent some time this year learning more about how the engines work. From what I’ve learned, a turbojet engine compresses and heats air and then exhausts it as a high-speed, high-temperature jet to create thrust. So we are taking everything we have learned and continue to do each day at Ekisa, compressing it into trainings, resources, and coaching, and jetting it out to organizations around the world through a new Training and Equipping Department. It’s an initiative where our different programs, our successes, our failures, our past work, our current work, and the work that is to come, are all funneled together to bring real help to workers around the world trying to make a difference.
We want the story of disability to be rewritten around the world. We want children with disabilities to grow up in families and communities where they can thrive and be fully valued. That has always been the heart of Ekisa, but as we move forward as an organization, we are lifting our sights far above our own horizon so that children around the entire world will get the love, acceptance, and help that they undoubtedly deserve.
- Jared Scheppmannn