Although Kenya is the largest and most advanced economy in Central and East Africa, and has a wealthy urban minority, its Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.519 ranks it 145th out of 186 in the world.
Thigio, where the project is taking place, is a rural village about 45 minutes from Nairobi in Kiambu County. A new road has encouraged many people to open small roadside shops to try and make a living, but Thigio remains primarily a semi-arid farming community.
Unemployment is very high (about 90%), especially among young people aged 18-35. Thanks to free primary and secondary schools, children manage to complete secondary school. Unfortunately for the majority, the poor results do not allow them to go to university and there are not enough technical schools for the number of students seeking a place.
Agriculture is the only opportunity they have. It is highly dependent on the weather, which has been very unpredictable in recent years, often alternating between floods and drought. The country is also currently undergoing an invasion of locusts that decimate everything in their path: the next harvest is very uncertain.
While visiting the inhabitants of the Thigio region, the sisters of the Saint Louise Centre discovered more than 300 people living with physical and intellectual disabilities. The government does not provide any specialized or personalized care to these people. They are abandoned, often confined to their homes, living in precarious houses without electricity or running water, and many are suffering from terminal cancer.
The sisters also met many elderly people living in extreme poverty, alone and without family support; as well as families, some with very young children with AIDS and others without access to pre-primary education.
Fidelis and Beth
Fidelis is a new arrival in Kisima. She has cerebral palsy and lives with her two siblings and her parents in a tin house that they rent. Like so many others in our region, her family lives on the meagre wages she earns through informal daytime work. Fidelis is receiving therapy from the physiotherapist, and unable to walk, a volunteer has made a makeshift therapy chair for her so that she can continue to work at home and improve her muscle control. Fidelis' mother works hard to drive her to school every day. She travels by motorcycle (a common mode of public transport in Kenya), and Fidelis is attached to the driver to ensure her safety during the journey. The family seems very diligent in caring for Fidelis.
Beth is a 7-year-old girl who has never been to school because she has not reached the key stages of her development. With the help of our physiotherapy program, she has learned to walk, although her language is not yet developed. She lives with her mother and three siblings. Her parents are separated and her mother tries to support the family with occasional work. Beth's mother can't afford the school fees, but she tries to make up for it by volunteering at the school, which is very valuable to us.
All programmes are now aimed at the most vulnerable: women and children, neglected youth, lonely elderly people, people with disabilities, people living with AIDS and/or cancer. The programme for disabled children is called "Kisima".
Provide 6 children with disabilities with access to quality education, nutritional support and health care for 1 year.
The situation of these children is often catastrophic. Some are left at home without care or supervision, and their condition continues to worsen due to lack of exercise and physiotherapy. The Daughters of Charity take care of them through an adapted program as soon as a place is available.
Elizabeth and James
Elizabeth is a very sweet 8-year-old girl with epilepsy, hyperactivity and cognitive problems. Her mother is a single mother with four other children. All the children sleep with her in a bed in a rented room. Food is scarce, and money is even scarcer. Elizabeth's mother cannot afford her seizure medication, she tries her best to do odd jobs to earn money, but jobs are hard to find, and she can only find a few days a month.
Elizabeth is a particularly vulnerable child because she has total trust in strangers. The Kisima program provides her with a safe and protective environment. Our curriculum, based on the Montessori model, makes the most of her cognitive abilities. We also ensure that she receives her seizure medication in an appropriate manner.
James is one of two children of a single mother. They live with many extended family members in his mother's home. Overcrowding is causing tension in the home, and James' family is under pressure to leave. James needs round-the-clock care, which kept his mother from working.
James has attended a public school in the past, but he has not been able to continue beyond Grade 3 due to his deteriorating physical condition. He has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe form of the disease. He is now 13 years old and confined to a wheelchair. The Kisima program provides both an education for James and a break for his mother. Having a place to take James during the day allows him to earn some money. The medical, physiotherapy and nutritional support provided by the program is invaluable in improving his quality of life and that of the whole family.
At the Thigio Centre, children have access to quality education adapted to their stage of development where they can carry out certain class work such as beading, drawing and painting with an assistant to guide them. Thanks to this programme, children finally have access to medicines and balanced and nutritious meals. Their growth and weight improve along with their health and the strengthening of their immunities. Regular physiotherapy sessions allow them to develop dexterity.
Children receive personalized care and attention. The management provides for their transportation to and from the centre and security check visits will be made to the beneficiaries' homes to provide the children with supplementary feeding if necessary. This global care costs 470€ per child per year.
Joseph, 4 years old, came to the attention of the Kisima program through our physiotherapist who directed the family to the school. During a home visit, we found Joseph at home with his four siblings, lying in dirty pants with no parental supervision. It turns out that his mother is intellectually handicapped, with a limited ability to care for her children. His father occasionally works as a labourer. The family lives in abject poverty in a two-room mud hut. With the help of our physiotherapist, Joseph is now able to walk. Doctors suspect Joseph has hemiplegia, which causes weakness on one side of his body. It seems that he has the potential to learn, and the Kisima program can give him that chance.
With feedback, we can measure the results:
a) The children's BMI increases
b) There is a reduction in the incidence of diseases and infections among children who have received nutritional and medical assistance
c) The majority have better bone strength and ability to stand and walk on their own
d) The children can finally follow artistic activities or reading and speaking activities.
e) Their attention span is improving
The ultimate goal is that these beneficiaries achieve a much greater degree of independence and are able to carry out certain basic tasks with a maximum of autonomy.
Beth, Elizabeth, Fidelis, Francis, James, and Joseph join Rosalie Projects in saying THANK YOU.
With them, thanks to you!
I am a Daughter of Charity and part of a local community of 8 sisters, 3 from the United States and 5 from Kenya. We work together to manage Thigio's many services. We are assisted by a dedicated lay staff who are very committed to our mission of service. I have been serving in Kenya for 14 years. I worked for 8 years in Nairobi and then moved to Thigio where I have been working for 6 years. I am a social worker but I work mainly as an administrator for all the projects in Thigio.