If you have read my last few posts, you will remember when I talked about 2017 being a year of new things, one of which was my desire to finally take my passion for children with disabilities and do something more than just talking about it. So far this year I have observed a therapy program in Madagascar , met with some therapists at Jubilee Hospital and delivered a letter requesting meeting space to the CEO of the hospital. I am still waiting for a reply on that. Today I stepped a bit deeper into things and visited Ntuthuko Stimulation Centre in Soshanguve, which was less than 45 minutes from our house.
I didn't take many pictures, so please check out their website (link above) to see what is happening there. What I did do was meet with Christinah, a physiotherapist who founded Ntuthuko almost 4 years ago, along with my friend Debbie from Abba's Pride and Annah, Amo's mama. Christinah is working at a hospital, a good job that allows her to provide for her family. However, she saw so many children coming in for therapy who were in need of quality care. She talked with mothers and fathers and grannies who were doing their best to care for their children, but also needed to work to provide for the rest of their family, including their disabled child. Many of these caregivers would leave their children at a local day care centre, which was not equipped to care for a disabled child.
Christinah decided to begin training local women, women who were unemployed and looking for purpose and seeing the training as a benefit in and of itself. When the centre officially opened in May 2013, there was one child in care for the first 3 months. This allowed the caregivers to have a more hands on learning experience. Christinah did the training during her "off" hours, while holding down a full time job on the other side of town and also having family responsibilities. She did this because she wanted to provide "special care to kids with special needs".
There are now 19 children at the centre, split into classes based on their level of need, learning ability and activity level. They are in groups of 3 and 4 with ONE caregiver assigned to each group. This was amazing to me, because it is so necessary to have a small ratio of children to caregivers, but when I imagined starting up a centre, I never really thought it would be possible as the need is so great and the workers seem to be so few, but Ntuthuko is doing it. The children were lovely. I could move in next door to the centre tomorrow and happily spend every day over there with them. The types of special needs varied from Cerebral Palsy to Autism, Down Syndrome to Hydrocephalus.
For me, this meeting was mind changing. My heart and passion are the same, but I see that there is a better way to go about bringing something like Ntuthuko to the children and families in Hammanskraal. This way was made more clear when Christinah said "my plan is that once I have this centre running optimally, I am going to expand to Hammanskraal, KwaMhlanga and further out". We didn't sign on the dotted line and make a big official plan, but my goal is to support Christinah in what she is doing now in Soshanguve, by linking her to resources and people to better Ntuthuko and allow Christinah to start satellite centres in this other areas. This is ultimately a much better way forward than me trying to "reinvent the wheel".
I am so glad I was at this meeting with my friend Debbie. She knows me, she knows my heart, and she will encourage me as I seek to move forward in whatever way God directs. I am also so glad Annah was there. When I say there are no options in Hammanskraal, I am not telling the full truth, because there is one care centre that I took Annah and Amo to several years ago. When we walked out Annah said "Please Auntie J, don't ever make me leave Amo here". That about sums up that centre. Today when Annah walked out of the office and saw the rooms where the kids were being cared for; how bright and colorful and clean everything was, how kind and gentle the staff was, how happy and well cared for the children were, she was like "I want to bring Amo now". However, this isn't a possibility as distance and travel time would make it almost impossible for someone who does not have their own vehicle.
So, for now, with Debbie encouraging me and Annah helping me, we are going to track statistical information on the special needs children who are currently receiving services at Jubilee Hospital as these are the children who would eventually attend a centre in Hammanskraal. We are also going to start a support group for parents/caregivers of disabled children. This is so important as these men and women are struggling and, while Darin and I can offer Annah support, we are not walking in her shoes. These parents need each other to lean on and also to come together and speak up for their children. Christinah has also offered to come and do a training with a group of mothers so that they can be providing daily interventions for their children at home, not just a few stretching exercises a couple times a day, but ways to stimulate and aid in the development of each child.
This is all super, super exciting for me and also super overwhelming. I still have my own responsibilities with my family and Take Action, not to mention a trip back to the US in about 4 months, but I want to be open to where God is leading. I want to walk with Him and not run ahead or lag behind. He is the one who has given me this desire and I want to use it to bring glory to Him.
If you are interested in knowing more about Christinah or how you can help support her centre, please go to the website link above or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.