As word gets out about our program, we get a lot of people inquiring on if we might be able to help them in some way.
John, the village elder from Gachagi came one day and asked if he might take me to visit a family. I agreed.
He took me to visit Halaki, and upon hearing his story I cried. Not a big blubbering cry because I was in front of people, but one of those teary eyed I can’t talk right now cries.
The short story on Halaki is that he is an 18-year-old boy who stays at home and does not attend school. He appears to have moderate retardation and some hemiplegia that resulted after seizures at the age of 3. Halaki was taken to the district hospital for his seizure, where he had a reaction to the medication and went into a coma for over a month. When he awoke, he was no longer the same regularly developing child. He currently functions at best at a 2-year-old level. He has had little opportunity to learn and practice functional skills. The very skills that any child would be taught in special education in our public school system.
Halaki’s primary caregiver all of his life has been his sister who is just a year in age different from him. She is in the equivalent of her junior year of high school. She attends a boarding school out-of-town as most kids do if they family can scrape up the money. She worries when she is at school that her brother will be neglected. The step-mother doesn’t have the same love that a mother might…and the father works all day. The sister and the father asked if there was any way we could help. Could he come to our center? Could we help find a school for him?
They were patient. Our social worker found a school.
Here is Halaki on the day I went to take him to the school to inquire about registration. In the beginning, he was too shy to be around me or shake my hand, but he is warming up nicely:
This is Halaki’s sister, Fatuma, who is his primary caregiver and advocate:
Here is Halaki sitting in his house:
So, we did all of this legwork, found a school, finalized the cost of school fees and the father and sister came and met with me. I had secured a sponsor (my awesome mom) to help with school fees. The dad committed to paying half of the fees each term which is a great sacrifice for the family. I thought we were set.
Then we went to the school….and they found out that Halaki is not independent in his toileting…and suddenly the school is full. An entire half day of waiting, interviewing, assessing and then a “No” answer. While I commented to the elder that I was incredibly frustrated with the outcome, he replied, “It is in God’s control”. He is right. We will continue to hunt for schools. In the meantime, the American team that was just here left some great boardmaker (a communication tool) books with us so I’ll take one to the family to use with Halaki in improving his ability to express needs and wants.