A “Special” Event

June 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

We all know about the common problems in Africa…HIV/AIDS, malaria, orphans, poverty. But what do you know about another problem that is just as big that receives a fraction of the attention?

children facing intellectual disabilities.

Some of our dearest friends are here in Zambia and working with children with intellectual disabilities through their organization Special Hope Network. We love them and we love what they’re doing. Last Tuesday night, we got to celebrate a huge accomplishment for their organization: their community centers!

If you are a parent or caregiver of a special needs child in the Western world and particularly in the United States, it’s a challenging task but there are many people available to help in the journey. Thankfully, there are many resources available for parents and their children. There are therapies, special needs education classes provided through free public education, Special Olympics, family support groups, specialized pediatric doctors, occupational and physical therapy, as well as many others. As a pediatric ICU nurse, we were able to provide excellent care to all children and particularly for those with intellectual disabilities.

If you are a parent of a special needs child in Zambia, it is a nearly impossible task. You will most likely be told at the birth of your child that he or she will be a vegetable (regardless of the diagnosis) and holds no potential for their future. Many of these children are not registered with the national government because of the shame they cause for their families. Some children are even hidden at home with their next door neighbors never even aware of their existence. Statistically, 80% of these children will die before they reach their 5th birthday. Usually, the cause of death is because of co-morbid conditions (a fancy way of saying things other than their main diagnosis), like diarrhea or malnutrition.

There is limited care and therapy available for these children currently. But many of it is not practical for most children because of distance, cost, and efficiency (some places for therapy are only able to give less than ten minutes to each child for therapy because of the sheer volume of patients).

Enter Special Hope Network’s Community Centers. They are currently piloting 2 community centers in 2 compounds with the vision to expand multiple community centers into every compound (ghetto) around the city of Lusaka. Every child who attends receives 2 hours of therapy per day, including physical therapy, sign language, sensory play, and circle time with songs and books. A parent or caregiver must attend with the child, with the intention of helping the caregiver to continue the therapies at home. The children’s weights are monitored as well as their health status and they are given nutritional supplements and medical care as needed. There is no cost to the families for these services. The organization is funded by private donors like you and me.

These children in Lusaka deserve a chance in life. We are thrilled to call ourselves financial supporters of the organization and hope that you will be as well. Give any amount, even as little as $1, through their website HERE.

(Special Hope Network is preparing to launch their child sponsorship program so stayed tuned for ways that you can support one of these precious children.)

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