For years, families with minors suffering from mental disability have faced the backlash, name calling and stigma from the community.
But as the country marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a group of women in Mai Mahiu Naivasha have shed off this tag and have come out to champion the rights of the minors.
Through the support of Ubuntu Village, the women who for years relied on handouts from well-wishers have been empowered through job opportunities and a place where they can leave the minors.
According to Teresia Mugure whose 13-year-old son suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and hearing impairment, she came to learn of his condition very late in life.
This is a brain disorder that affects how one pays attention, sits still and controls behavior. It happens in children and teens and can continue into adulthood.
Mugure who is currently working in Ubuntu factory that produces shoes, hand bags, and vegetables admitted that the first days were critical and overburdening for her and family.
Many were the times that his son either disappeared leading to a major search or opened a boiling pot of sufuria unaware of the risk he was putting himself in.
Through friends who had such children, she was introduced to Ubuntu village where she met other women that had challenges similar to hers.
“This home took in our children who had special needs and they get daily therapy, medication and education at a minimal fee as we work in the Village factory,” she said.
Currently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the parents have been forced to leave their ailing minors with relatives and friends as the minors are vulnerable to disease outbreak.
This is echoed by another parent Joyce Njeri whose minor suffers from cerebral palsy which started as meningitis which later left her bedridden for months.
She is also working in the same factory as a shoemaker and this has helped her put a meal on the table and also tend to her minor who requires therapy every week.
“Many parents with such minors tend to lock them in their houses and we are asking them to open up and as disability is not an inability,” she says.
Another parent Teresia Mwangi noted that every person was a candidate for disability adding that they had overcome stigma and name calling from the society.
Her daughter who also suffers from cerebral palsy is on the way to recovery thanks to assistance from therapy and medication from Ubuntu terms the journey as painful.
“We have been labeled names, faced high prices of medication, locked from government offices but through God and the support of Ubuntu village we have made it in life,” she said.
One thing that the parents with this special-needs-minors face is a lack of cards certifying their minors as people living with disabilities.
The co-founder of Ubuntu village Jeremiah Kuria said that they started with ten parents but later realized that the number of minors with special needs in the area was very high.
“Many of these women were kicked out of their homes due to the condition of the minors and that is when we decided to partner with them in this long journey,” he says.
Currently, they have 67 minors in their school which is not currently running due to the pandemic and over 200 who receive therapy and medication on a daily basis.
“We have gone ahead and employed parents whose children have special needs and this is part of empowering them in a society where they face stigma and discrimination,” he says.
Kuria added that the women are involved in sowing bags, making shoes and producing various kinds of farm produce within their farm located off the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road.
“We use millions of shillings to buy medication for these minors as part of our support and we are in the process of constructing a big center that can accommodate more minors,” he says.
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