My mom was visiting with us in Kenya recently, and I decided to take her to Heshima’s Dignity Designs, a specialty jewelry shop I had heard great things about. I thought it would be a fun mother-daughter day out, and we could buy some lovely African beaded jewelry. What I didn’t realize was that we were about to learn about an inspirational program supporting special needs children in Kenya.
When we arrived at the shop, we met Heshima founder Tracey Hagman. She asked if we would like a tour of their children’s center before we started shopping, and we said, “Sure!” What we saw there touched and inspired us both.
Many special needs children in Kenya live a life with little dignity, and even less support. Heshima, meaning “dignity” in Swahili, provides assistance and services for Kenyan children with special needs, as well as their mothers.
Kenya sorely lacks institutions providing services for children with disabilities. Many special needs children in Kenya are kept at home, out of school, sometimes hidden from the community due to stigma. Those that do attend public school often languish, neglected, without any targeted assistance. Very few special needs children ever have the opportunity to receive the special education or therapy they need.
Heshima seeks to meet the needs of such children – children with cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, physical and learning disabilities, epilepsy, and other conditions.
Heshima provides meals, basic education, and specialized therapy (physical, occupational and speech) to the special needs children in their center. Heshima also supports the mothers of each enrolled child, providing them with training, employment, and much-needed income. Heshima moms are employed as water distributors, jewelry makers, or as assistants within the Heshima program.
We got a chance to meet many of Heshima’s children, moms and staff during our visit that day. The center is beautiful – bright, cheery, and full of brightly colored toys, bean bags, and books. The children were so HAPPY. As we passed through the center, some children were contentedly napping. Other children were starting their therapy sessions, using both locally made and imported devices to help the children develop their gross and fine-motor skills. Still other children were sitting in class, working on their handwriting or listening to stories. It was a warm, welcoming space full of smiles and cheer. I felt good just being there.
After we toured the center, we made our back to our original destination – the Dignity Designs jewelry shop, and picked up several gorgeous pieces. The proceeds from jewelry sales all go towards salaries for the Heshima moms, giving them the income they need to support their family. The jewelry is truly beautiful and unique!
I was so inspired to see the work that Heshima is doing with these wonderful kids. These children deserve love and support. They deserve to be seen for who they are as individuals – not as labels, stereotypes, or stigma. Their moms deserve to make a living wage, and to connect with and get support from other moms going through the same challenges. Thanks to Heshima, they’re getting all this, and more.
If you would like to support the work done at Heshima, you can visit their website to make a donation. The center operates almost exclusively on individual donations, and relies heavily on the support of people like us!
Are quality services for special needs children available where you live? What is being done locally to support people with disabilities in your country?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu. Follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Photo credits: Heshima, used by permission.
Decorating Halloween bags to fill and share with Syrian children.
It was a few weeks ago, my phone rings. I am working from home, writing something unimportant. Yet, I am hesitant to interrupt my concentration. No matter how insignificant my work assignment is, at that precise moment, it’s the center of my universe. While I’m toying whether I should pick up or call back later, my hand lifts the phone. Or maybe it’s not my hand. Maybe it’s instinct, a force, my conscience. Something bigger than me, that knows this phone call is about to rock my world. (more…)
The 2015 deadline for the eight Millennium Development goals is upon us. As of December 31st 2015 not all of the goals will have been met, but huge progress has been, and continues to be made. If anything the past 15 years showed what is truly possible with concerted effort and proper funding. The MDGs were set in the year 2000 by 189 nations, and the Millennium Goal Declaration was put in place as a step to alleviate extreme poverty around the globe. Negotiations of the Post 2015 development agenda are due to take place early this month, and will build on the progress made thus far through the 8 MDGs.
The next set of 17 sustainable development goals, which have 169 associated targets, are being referred to as the SDGs. The proposed goals are to end poverty, end hunger, achieve healthy lives for all, provide quality education, attain gender equality, empower women, and girls the world over. To ensure clean and sustainable water, sanitation, and sustainable energy for all. Goals include economic growth, resilient infrastructures, reduction of inequality between countries, to make cities safe, create resilient consumption and production cycles, urgently combat climate change, conserve our oceans, protect our ecosystems, create peaceful, inclusive and just societies, and strengthen global partnerships towards sustainable development.
On December 31st UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his synthesis report of all the suggestions entitled “The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet”, and broke the SDGs into what he referred to as 6 essential elements to serve as conceptual guides in the work of outlining the final goals. Here are the six key elements according to a press release issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on December 4th of 2014.
The first element is dignity: an essential element for human development, encompassing the fight against poverty and inequality.
Second is people: Millions of people, especially women and children, remain excluded from full participation in society. We must finish the work of the Millennium Development Goals.
Third, prosperity: We must develop a strong, inclusive and transformative global economy.
4. OUR PLANET
Fourth, our planet: We have an urgent duty to address climate changes and protect our ecosystems, for ourselves and our children.
Fifth, justice: to build safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions.
And finally, partnership: because this agenda will be built on a foundation of global cooperation and solidarity.
These six broad categories provide a much more digestible approach to the 17 goals that will be finalized at the General Assembly in September of 2015. As #WorldMoms it will be our children, the next generation, who will carry through many of these goals, and be the ones help to innovate, execute, and hopefully see the end goal of eradicating extreme poverty by the year 2030.
What do you think of this new proposed set of SDGs?
This is an original post written by Elizabeth Atalay for World Moms Blog. She also writes at documama.org.