Last weekend I met Mama Evaline Ingasa who is raising a 16-year-old son who is abled differently. Her journey raising Zein has been a tough one. If she didn’t love her son then she would have given up on him, or even killed him, or left him for the dogs just like the majority of families would do. But Mama Evaline has always woken up to a new hope every morning, believing that her son was not bewitched, or given up as a sacrifice.
At his age, young Zein would have been in high school studying, or even out there in the world representing our country in tournaments and world championships like other normal children; but fate has confined him to his mother’s house and her loving care.
His innocent body is wasting away with bedsores and under continuous attack with poor health. He has outgrown his wheelchair but is not Evaline’s priority at the moment because she has to balance between buying medication for her son, providing food on the table for him, paying rent and buying diapers for Zein.
Evaline’s family never wants anything to do with her. She has a mother, a brother, a sister and an ex-husband who never bother to even call and ask how young Zein is coping with his condition.
Most often Evaline has to lock up her son and go for long hours to fend for a living only to return in the night and find him hungry and in the same position she left him because there’s no one to give her a hand.
Have You Ever Tried Standing in the Gap?
Have you ever closed your eyes for five minutes not while sleeping but while awake? If you try that, how do you find the world of darkness? Have you ever tried standing in the gap for an individual who is visually impaired? Who wants to cross the road and can’t because he/she can’t visualize the racing buses whose drivers are targeting the next trip?
A friend of mine once told me, “I fear asking people to help me cross the road or help me access an office because before I say a word they tell me, leo sina pesa” (I don’t have money today). Who told you that every visually impaired person needs to be assisted financially? If you don’t see them holding a cup please give them a listening ear, they might have good news.
We have all come across men, women and children living with disabilities trying to access facilities like buses, lifts, shopping and even learning but with difficulties. Some of us would ignore them and walk away quickly past them like a passing wind because it’s none of our business. How about the next time you meet up with one of them and try to stand in the gap, empathise with them and give them a hand, it always doesn’t have to be monetary,
I know we all can’t learn sign language or braille, that’s why we need to stand in the gap. Help where need be, because it feels so bad when you are segregated from societal functions because you are just different from the rest of the crowd.
An Unfair Society
Our society is unfair at times. It isn’t accommodative to people who are abled differently, from structures in offices, roads, working institutions to name but a few. No one would love to be carried like a baby into the bus, it’s only that there’s no alternative that’s why some who are severely challenged are assisted to board a vehicle. How I wish we had even only two buses in the country to cater for those with physical challenges and are using their wheelchairs.
I once happened to see a special bus at the Kenya Institute of Special Education where they offer transport to their staff and students with physical challenges. Kudos to such institutions, they are standing in the gap.
Are you aware that even geniuses are often in the category of special persons and if not well taken care of and at the same time nurtured, they end up abusing drugs and engaging in dangerous activities.
Have you ever met an individual who’s a drug addict, eloquent and smart upstairs? I have personally met many, not only one; but most often as a society, we judge them and avoid any interaction with them. Everyone deserves a second chance and these groups of people can be rehabilitated and moulded into better people.
Most children with special needs hate routine! It’s also fair to say that majority of them are also very intelligent and have a yearning to explore. They love to be entertained and included in activities just like any other person. Mama Evaline knows very well how much Zein enjoys music and many times when she has to leave him alone in the house, she puts the radio on and goes on her errands, that music is what would keep Zein at peace until his mother’s return.
I have also seen other caregivers incorporate a number of fun activities that help to cement a stronger bond between them and their children with special needs. Activities like swimming, reading together while encouraging the child to talk about their fears, fun in the tub by turning the bathtub into a fun zone, this is a great moment especially for those kids who don’t like bathing or even turning your house/living room into a campout and getting to enjoy every moment spent with these kids.
There are numerous people who stand in the gap to create a better world for people who are abled differently . There are so many unreported stories of individuals who are abled differently and live in a very bad state. They are suffering in silence and most times they’re kept locked up in homes because the community around them has not accepted them, who term them as a bad omen! Yet what they need is someone to help them cross the road, provide a wheelchair, talk to them, volunteer in special homes and give their services.
The Government has tried in its service provision to persons who are abled differently but still, there’s a huge loophole in terms of accessibility, inclusivity and stigmatization which are challenges that most families/caregivers of people living with disabilities are grappling with.
How I encourage each and every one to carry their candles and light the world. I salute all the special needs teachers wherever they are because they are all standing in the gap.