Kupenda for the Children Educates Communities and Transforms Lives
by Hannah Fields, CCIH Communications Coordinator
In many areas of the world, people living with a disability are viewed in a negative context, such as being cursed. Because of this, many disabled people, especially children with disabilities, are often abandoned, neglected, or abused. Nonprofit organization Kupenda for the Children is inspired to transform harmful beliefs surrounding disability and improve the lives of children.
Kupenda designs, implements, and supports disability training and inclusion programs and works with children and youth who have long-term disabilities including physical, cognitive, sensory, and emotional health issues. Kupenda’s innovation center is located in Kilifi County, Kenya, but their model and materials are also being used in parts of Austria, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Haiti, Malawi, Niger, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. These materials are relevant for use in all low- and middle-income countries.
In Kilifi County, Kupenda’s advocacy workshops were tailored to reach influential community groups and resulted in beneficial changes for children and youth impacted by disability. From June 2015 through April 2017, Kupenda conducted 23 workshops with a total of 603 participants. Each of these workshops was designed for the audience it reached, with differing curriculums for pastors, traditional healers, government leaders, and families impacted by disabilities.
Based on surveys, 73 percent of participants believed in spiritual causes of disabilities prior to the workshops. After participating in the workshops, 60 percent of those who originally held superstitious beliefs stated they believe in the biological causes of disabilities they learned about in the workshops.
“When influential community leaders no longer believe in superstitious causes and treatments for disabilities, they provide lifesaving support to families impacted by disabilities and reduce stigma in the community for generations,” said Kupenda Founder and Director, Cynthia Bauer.
In addition to overturning harmful beliefs, 73 percent of workshop participants provided evidence of action on behalf of families impacted by disability in their communities. Kupenda’s work with these community groups provides evidence that change in belief systems and awareness about disability issues within the local population leads to support and inclusion of families impacted by disability, which can be seen in their work with a child named Daniel.
Daniel was born with cerebral palsy due to birth complications that also took his mother’s life. Daniel’s father abandoned him and left him in the care of his grandmother, but she lacked the knowledge and resources to properly support Daniel and his disability. In addition, due to superstitions of the community they lived in, Daniel’s inability to walk was seen as the result of witchcraft, leaving his family alienated and without access to the services he needed.
A pastor in the community – Pastor Musinda – once shared the belief that disabilities were spiritual inflictions rather than the result of biological causes. However, after Pastor Musinda attended a one-day disability workshop by Kupenda for Christian leaders, his mindset shifted. He learned the true cause of disabilities and saw the need for the church to include all people and how to advise families with disabilities on how to access disability education and services. Since then, Pastor Musinda helped enroll Daniel in school and helped his family access seizure medication and therapy. He also invited Daniel and his family to join his church. Daniel’s seizures are now under control and he is walking independently.
“Pastor Musinda’s home visit and counseling sessions became a turning point to my grandson’s quality of life,” Daniel’s grandmother said. “Through his effort the church members supported me with transport to enable Daniel to access consistent therapy services and epilepsy medication. The church members welcomed us to church and since then we feel part of the church because of the love we are experiencing.”
If you would like to learn more about Kupenda for the Children, their advocacy programs, and help support their work, you can visit their website here.