Hope and Healing

The heroes of almost every story I see in Africa are the mothers or grandmothers

November 11, 2011From the Field

We had another great day visiting another CBR program about 100 km outside of Addis. After a briefing on the scope of their work our group divided up to visit some homes. I want to give just one story of one of the clients we visited.

We visited one home where we had to walk through the mud to get to. Here we met a mother of two children – 9 and 7 years old. Both children had mental disabilities and the older one also had epilepsy. We found out that the women’s husband also had a mental disability and could not work.

The CBR field worker visits this home twice a week. The mother told us that in the beginning – three years ago when she was first visited – the CBR program began by providing her with medicine for the epilepsy. They also worked with her to help her understand that this was not a curse from God, and helped her understand how to work with her children. She was linked with the community by community meetings, where the CBR program helped her and her neighbours understand the illness that her children had, and that it was not something evil. She was also put in touch with other mothers who had children with disabilities. Together they could share their stories, how they coped, and together how they were able to access government programs.

One of the important things the CBR program did then was to work with her on livelihood. Because her husband had no job, she could not provide food for her family. They had to beg others for food. The program worked with her to develop a business plan for sustainability. She began with a loan from the CBR program to buy lambs to be raised and sold. When the price of feed began to rise, she quickly sold the sheep and then built three small rooms on her piece of property. She was able to rent out these rooms and now has a sustainable monthly income.

With a quiet pride she told us that now she has enough money for food and clothes for her family. She also said that she no longer receives any free medicines for her epileptic daughter, but can buy this herself. She is even saving some money and hopes to invest in another small room that she can rent. For the first time she has certainty in her income – and that this will provide for her and her family.

As we were leaving she also told us that because of her experience, she has asked to be one of the mothers that meets new clients to give them hope. She is the one that the CBR program brings to meet new clients – telling them that there is hope. Just as someone helped her, she wants to help others.

I have often said that the heroes of almost every story I see in Africa are the mothers or grandmothers. This women with a husband and two daughters with disabilities did not give up, but worked hard to cope. With understanding, new acceptance from her community, weekly visits, a small loan, she was able to move from dependence on begging to independence and being a resource to others.

Her home is not much to look at. A small plot of land, just her home and three small rooms, along with a very muddy courtyard. She still has to carry water from a distance. Her children will always have their disability. Yet she is strong and a model for others.

Winston was in another group and he said that one of his home visits they found out that the CBR worker had found a child with a disability in the streets, and asked her to take them to her mother. This is how they found this child three years ago. Winston had asked the mother what she thought when her child, with a disability, brought home his CBR field worker. She told Winston that her thought was immediately a question: “Has God now heard her many prayers for help?”