The Blessing of Special Needs

 An Interview with Aunt Kate Tolhurst

Special Needs Photo 4 - Staffa and Kids p6Can you describe the special needs program?
The special needs program started in 2009 when I came to New Hope Uganda. Originally, it was only Hassan living in Hope Family. When I moved into David Family, people quickly heard about me loving children with special needs and from there we have grown. As well as Hassan`s House where he now lives with five others, we also have a class of 11 children. We also have a monthly community outreach program for people and families affected by disability.

How many people do you reach?
If you include the community, it’s between 70-80, mostly children but also a few adults. In our class, we have 13 children we support, including two who go to special needs school for deaf children. Included in the 11 is Brian who goes to the main school [New Hope’s Essubbii Eppya Vocational Primary School] most of the time but comes to us for physical therapy and personal care.

Special Needs Photo 1 - Brian p6What are some challenges you have faced?
The main challenge we face with parents and hospital workers is that some still don’t value the children, they see them as a burden or a waste of time. Some of the parents just want us to take their kids because they are tired of them, but that is what we are trying not to do. Even hospitals sometimes say, “why should we waste our time on these children?” Many believe that if a child has special needs, its demonic and they fear catching it. We also struggle with some parents, who rather than taking their children to the hospital when they are sick, they take them to a witch doctor. Quite a few of the children have a disability because they failed to go to the hospital in time, either due to money or going to a witch doctor instead.

What are goals you have achieved?
God has used us to help change people’s attitudes about special needs children. We are starting to see adults in the community love and care for these children. Even the parents have given testimony to how our community program has really helped them; it has given them support and encouragement. We have also provided lots of equipment and wheelchairs and have given medical treatment to those with epilepsy and other illnesses.

What are some of your plans for the future?
We have lots of hopes and plans for the future, but the main one we have at present is to be able to complete our building project which will enable us to have more children in our class(es.) We have almost completed
the first classroom and hope to move in for the new school year (Feb. 2014). However, we still need to raise funds for the second phase which includes a second class, office, outdoor kitchen and latrines. In the near future, we also want to have another home for children, like Hassan’s house, but in another family group. Eventually, we hope to have a home for adults with learning disabilities in the community because we know of many adults who are being taken advantage of. We will continue to educate the community by training, preaching, radio programs, etc.

Where have you seen God working?
The whole of it is God. Even the way I got involved in special needs happened in funny ways that could have only been God. When I first came on a team to New Hope and met Hassan, God spoke to me clearly saying Special Needs photo 2 - children group -p6that I needed to start this. Even the time that I came I had to sell my house in England and it was a bad time for that to happen, but God made it happen. He has provided for us through funds and sponsors, who have given money to help with all sorts of things; it all has been God. Even the way the children have come to us has been God’s work.

Do you have any stories about one of the children?
All of our children have stories that are inspiring. But, recently we have all been amazed by Allen. Allen came to us two years ago when she was eight-years old and weighed four kilograms. She was very small and was basically about to die. She would cry and shiver all the time because she was so severely malnourished. If you could see her now, she has put on lots of weight, she is happy, she interacts with people, and she has learned how to eat. We are still struggling with her family. Her mom loves her but the rest of her family sees her as a burden, but they have seen how she has changed and are starting to love her. Every child we have has a wonderf l story. If you could see where they came from and where they are now, it makes everything worthwhile.

What advice can you give to people who will be reading this article?
It’s important to remember that all of us have a disability of some kind. Not necessarily a physical disability, but none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, so we shouldn’t look down on people who have
more obvious disabilities. We shouldn’t think they are any less, because God values us all equally! We should love each and every person the same and not consider ourselves better than them. These people who have physical disabilities can teach you and bless you with things that people without them couldn’t. I personally enjoy spending time with these people because there is something special about them! If you ask God to open your eyes to that you would be surprised at how much you are blessed!

Special Needs Photo 5 - Child p6How can we pray for Special Needs?
The main thing is to pray that people’s attitudes toward special needs children change in this area. In the new year, we are relaunching our program under the name of ‘Treasures in Jars of Clay’; is because we believe each person (whether disabled or not) is a treasure created by God currently in a body that is like a fragile and imperfect clay jar (see 2 Corinthians 4 v 7.)

Interview by Emma Ocakacon and Devin Hiller

How U Can Help

• Please pray that God will provide funds for our
classroom, general running costs and sponsors for
the two new children who we would like to enroll next
• Please pray for the health for all of our special children
and the staff who care for and teach them.
• Provide funds for the Special Needs Classroom and
Office completion – $18,000.
• Sponsor a special needs child. Contact us for more information.

To donate to Special Needs click here