By Kate Tolhurst, Teacher/Special Needs Coordinator, New Hope Staff since June 2009
“For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother`s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well….. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
– Psalm 139 vs 13 – 16
Every individual was created by God, in His image. We are all ‘treasures in jars of clay,’ in need of restoration which only God can bring. Our Father has plans and purposes for each person he has given life to. Every one of us can glorify God despite our imperfections and limitations.
In 2002, a baby boy called Hassan was brought to New Hope having suffered from serious head injuries which had caused significant damage to his brain. At that time it was not evident how much damage had been done and what disabilities had been caused, but as Hassan grew up in the loving environment of Hope house, it became clear that this little boy would be able to do little for himself.
Hassan is now 8 years old and is reliant on a carer for all of his personal care needs. He is unable to walk or talk and has feeding difficulties which have required him to have a gastrostomy tube fitted through which he now receives the majority of his food and drink. When people meet Hassan, and hear his story, they are often overwhelmed with sorrow, pity and sometimes even hopelessness. Perhaps they ask themselves ‘why did God allow this to happen?’ or ‘Does God really have plans and purposes for Hassan`s life?’
However, as someone who spends the majority of my days with him, I can confidently answer this last question with a YES! God does have plans and purposes for Hassan`s life and he IS using him to bring glory to His name. Hassan brings joy into many people`s lives when they see him laugh and smile or when he tries to sing during praise and worship at church.
Hassan now lives in one of the 7 family groups at Kasana children`s centre where a special house was built for him and his carer(s) [caregivers] in 2009. He loves to be part of the family and attends the family devotions every evening. His brothers and sisters often take him out on walks delivering bread or just visiting other family groups or staff members. In the week, Hassan goes to pre-school and always responds with big smiles and laughter when he is welcomed by his classmates.
Hassan has been a catalyst in the beginning of the New Hope Special Needs Programme. As well as caring for Hassan, we want to reach out to other children and adults with disabilities in the local community. At the moment we are also providing care for a man who has significant learning difficulties and has a history of being abused and taken advantage of in the village where he stays.
During school term time, two other seven year old boys (Kakulu and Ivan) come in to visit Hassan`s house and also spend time within the pre-school classroom. Once a month we have been holding a community outreach session where people in the local community who have children with disabilities are able to come for lunch at Hassan`s house and are given support and advice about caring for their disabled child. At the most recent session, we had a visit from the community physiotherapist who was able to assess each child and show their parents/carers exercises and activities to do that would aid their development.
We are aiming towards starting a special needs class at our primary school in February 2011. Initially the class will be located in the new clinic building but eventually we hope to move down onto the main primary site. The class will run from Monday to Thursday with Fridays left open for home visits and a monthly ‘Community Outreach’ session. We hope to start with five students and we will focus mainly on teaching them independent life skills. Basically, we want to enable each child to fulfil his/her God given potential and to grow in their relationship with God.
As well as reaching out to the children and their families, we also want to challenge the community as a whole to reconsider their attitudes and beliefs concerning disability and suffering in general; does what they believe line up with what God says in his word? Here in Uganda, many people believe that disability is caused by sin or by witchcraft.
Others believe that disabilities are catching and are therefore fearful of those affected. As is the case worldwide, people with disabilities are considered by many as being of less worth than an ‘able’ person.
We want to replace these beliefs with God`s truth and challenge the people who live in our community to see people with disability through God`s eyes and to play their part in caring for them and enabling them to fulfil the purpose God has for each of their lives; to live in a way which brings glory to the name of our Father God.
New Hope Uganda are commencing the Special Needs Programme officially in January 2011 and are opening their special needs class at EEVPS at the start of the new school year. If you are interested in giving to the special needs programme in general or in sponsoring one of the children with disabilities who will be part of the class, please contact us either via our website.