Anna, is a seventeen year old girl who enjoys food and sensory play. She has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal, but she certainly knows how to make noise and enjoy life! However, this was not always the case. Anna was healthy at birth, but developed a fever, resulting in convulsions at 2 months old. This left her with brain damage. Anna’s mother, who was widowed several years after Anna’s birth struggled to get her to eat well and was pressured by her relatives to keep her hidden away in their mud hut so that she wouldn’t bring shame on the family; in Uganda disability is assumed to be either as a result of demonic possession, witchcraft or a punishment for sin!
By the time Anna was eight years old, her mother was being told to leave her to die as the relatives saw her as a great burden. In her desperation, she walked for miles to bring her to one of the Treasures in Jars of Clay (TIJOC, NHU’s special needs ministry) community sessions to get help. Anna was brought to us on a scorching hot December day, hidden in a bundle of blankets. Her head was a normal size but the rest of her body was tiny and her bones were protruding. She weighed just 5.5 kg (12 lbs) and could not sit.
As a team we decided that we should send Anna and her mother to the local hospital to be admitted into the nutrition ward. At this point, Anna was only drinking 500 ml (16 oz) of milk a day. She refused to eat or drink anything else and would only accept the milk if it was the right temperature (very hot!) During her admission in hospital, she gained a little weight and her mother received some nutritional advice. As Anna was from a very poor family of subsistence farmers who lived far from New Hope Uganda, we decided to bring Anna to stay on-site for a short period of time, to enable her to follow a strict, high calorie diet.
In our care, with regular visits from her family, Anna began to sit and interact with people. Her crying and self-stimulation behavior reduced and she began smiling and even laughing. However, despite a high calorie diet of liquidized food, Anna did not gain as much weight as we had hoped and continued to suffer from diarrhea and weakness. It was not until a doctor suggested we try and give her some TB medication that she began to get chubby and to gradually accept solid food! She began to shuffle along on her bottom and would grab food or drinks belonging to other children and staff!
In time, Anna grew stronger and stronger. She learned to feed herself and began standing and walking with a special frame. In the past few months, Anna has taken her first, independent steps which she is very happy about!
As well as the miracle we have witnessed in Anna herself, we can also testify to the miracle that happened in the attitudes of her relatives. At our community sessions, we are constantly sharing with the parents and caregivers, what we believe the Bible teaches about ALL people being unconditionally loved by God and ALL being precious and valuable to him. We are so thankful that Anna is now loved and accepted in her family. When she goes home for the school holidays she is well cared for and allowed to play outside with the rest of the family.
In the tribe Anna is from, when a woman’s husband dies, she then becomes the wife of the brother-in-law and this is what has happened with Anna’s mother. She has since had 2 more children, one of whom also has severe learning disabilities following a traumatic birth. Vincent is now 6 years-old and is also a student in our Treasures Class. Both Vincent and Anna are both boarders during the school terms. We are thankful that Vincent has also been accepted by the family. Vincent was very poorly in his early years, but is now healthy and very active. Although he, like his sister, has autistic tendencies and sensory processing disorder, he has learned to eat solid food, feed himself, and enjoys interacting with others.
Two months ago there was lots of excitement in TIJOC when Anna took her first few steps without holding onto anyone or anything. A night later she walked to the front of church as together we praised God for what he had been doing in her life, thanking him for those who have patiently and consistently worked with Allen over several years, and thanking him for the strength and courage he is giving her. To God be the glory!