A PLEASANT SURPRISE-TIME OUT FOR SPECIAL PARENTS
- Published: Tuesday, 31 October 2017 10:32
When a parent learns that their child has a disability or a chronic illness, they begin a journey that takes them into a life that is often filled with strong emotion, difficult choices, interactions with many different professionals and specialists. Most parents feel isolated and alone with most of them facing rejection, frustrations, discrimination from spouses, family members and close friends.
Most of the parents lack support from the community. What is more heartbreaking is the fact that most of these parents are women since most men tend to reject the women once they discover that the children are developing any form of disability.
Most Parents of learners with disability normally develop many questions that seem to have no answers. They are lost in confusion and fear off the unknown journey with their children. In the process, parents distance themselves from friends, relatives and the community since they feel they are different from the normal parents because their children are also different.
Ruben Centre is dubbed an oasis of hope as it has instilled and restored hope to hundreds of Mukuru residents through the services they offer to the community. In May 2015 Children with Special Needs Unit was started due to a need to have a Centre where Children with disability would get access to education as well as a safe environment. The Association for People living with disability (APDK) carried out assessments for different disabilities even as Community Health Volunteers (CHV’s) sensitized the community on the need to give a chance to children with disability to access education and other key services such as Occupational Therapy services. Most parents were going through denial, rejection of their children and a lot of loneliness.
We started a journey of hope with the parents. This was with the aim of enlightening them, empowering them and creating awareness on the causes of different disabilities, management of different disabilities but most importantly to create a platform for the parents to interact, share their stories, encourage one another and eventually empower them economically so that each parent can provide for their families. A support group called Kurt Fernley Self Help Group was started in honour of Kurt Fernley who initiated the Special needs unit.
As the saying goes..." A problem shared is a problem solved. "We decided to have open forums n workshops where these parents can bond, share n get trainings on different topics on issues concerning them. This forums are held on every first Monday of the month. During the sessions the parents are given breakfast lunch and Kshs. 300 each courtesy of Brother Frank. Sister Elizabeth has been offering group counselling to the parents during the workshops. She has handled different topics including parenting, how to handle discrimination, fear and trauma among other topics. During this sessions she identifies those who need individual counselling and gives them appointment.
As schools closed down for the last term of the year, We decided to break the routine of sitting in a room during workshops closing ceremony. An outing was organized to take the parents for a retreat. They were very happy an
The parents were taken through an empowerment session by Sister Elizabeth on how to approach a neighbour, friend or relative to request them to take care of the children for them to be available for the retreat. Most of them thought it could be impossible because it has never happened. This parents are so attached to their children with disability and have never imagined living them with someone else and this makes it hard for the parents to have the freedom to move around or have some time alone. To their surprise they all got positive answers from those who were requested except one mama John whose neighbours refused to look after him because he is delicate. John has brittle bones. This was another traumatizing experience for John's mother because she never expected it and thought she would miss the retreat and stay at home to look after her son. When she shared with teachers about it we allowed her to come with the son.
24th October was the long awaited day and it came at last. The mothers arrived at school on time smartly dressed and though they had no idea what the day would be like, they still had high expectations for the day. All eyes were on them as they took their seats in the bus.
The journey was not long. After 25 minutes we were at the David Sheldrick wildlife Trust. “Wow! It looks like up country”, said one of them. As we were hurriedly walking in one saw an elephant and said happily we have come to see elephants. I wish my daughter was here. Another one reminded her that the day was for parents and therefore she should forget about her child for a while. They scattered to different positions of the place to get a better view of the animals as they were feeding and also paying attention to the stories. From there we proceeded to the Resurrection garden for a pastoral program. Three of them who knew the place knew it as a praying garden. We entered the chapel where we had refreshments and snacks as Sister went on with a short talk just to guide us and prepare us psychologically for prayer. Lunch was brought and we decided to have our meal then come back for prayer in the garden.
By this time people had made more friends and they sat in their groups to have lunch together as they shared their experience for the day. They joked and made fun of each other and out laughed out loudly and most of them wished they could stay longer. “I hope we are not leaving this place early, am really enjoying myself. After lunch we were led to the garden by Sister Elizabeth as we went from one stop to another offering silent prayers then one would offer a prayer for a particular issue then we move to another stop sing a song as we offer prayers. This went on until we finished all the stops. We then went to the empty tomb then to the baptism area and finally to the remains of Cardinal Otunga. Where they wrote down their petitions and requests and put in a box.
Coincidentally, it was John’s birthday and Sister had baked a cake for the parents so we decided to have a party for him then we left.
This was just a different day in their lives, an opportunity to forget their daily duty of taking care of their children and just have some little time for themselves. Special thanks to the Director Br. Frank O’shea for making this day a special for the special parents.