On our visit to Kenya earlier this year to assess volunteer placements, we visited the special needs unit of Mwanyambo school, a school struggling to provide residential and educational facilities for children with a range of disabilities. The school is lucky enough to have a sponsor in the name of Nigel Watson, a long time friend of Outreach, who is providing money, resources and time to support the school in a variety of ways.
Nigel has kindly shared an update, (below) which includes the news that Outreach International now supports this project and we would love to send volunteers to the school in the very near future. Click HERE for more details.
It has been far too long since I produced the last Newsletter – over a year, in fact. Much has happened at the Special Needs Unit in the meantime, which I should have circulated to you all sooner. First and foremost is the increasing number of pupils at the Unit, which now stands at 47. This is marvellous – a clear indication that the school motto – “Disability is not Inability” – is getting through to the wider community! The majority of these children are resident, as their homes can be up to 100 kilometres away.
This year again saw a record number of 9 pupils in the new intake, with a small number dropping out at the top of the age range. Another major step forward has been the introduction of children with disabilities other than hearing impairment. The Unit is now home to a young lady with movement difficulties, who needs a wheelchair, and another with a limb missing. Both of these are in school for the first time and have been fully embraced by the other pupils in this “family”.
Needless to say, this does create additional logistical difficulties regarding wheelchair access, dormitory accommodation, etc., but these are being overcome. Progress on acquiring “independent” status for the Special Needs Unit is progressing, albeit slowly, and this can only benefit this shift in policy. It is to be hoped that more parents of disabled children will give their kids a better chance in life and send them to Mwanyambo.
More good news is that the Government-funded dormitory block for boys in now almost completed and is being occupied by more than 20 pupils. Not-so-good news is that the toilets and showers are not yet ready and these facilities remain awful, but at least the boys now have good beds and mozzy nets. The girls, however, remain in a small overcrowded room, many sleeping on the floor. The addition of the new disabled girls does nothing to alleviate this! I am pressing hard for the Unit to become independent, as I feel it will be easier to raise funds for a second dormitory block if it is segregated from the main body of the school.
Leisure time after school in the evenings and at weekends remains a source of concern. The children are mainly left to their own devices with no guided activities. The older children tend to put their time to good use – the footballs and rugby balls still get a pounding – but the little ones need more inspiration. There is a great need for more structured time, but no funds to employ such help. The Dayroom is still put to good use, especially the three working laptops, but once again the kids would benefit from extra help and tuition. Some assistance with proving funds for internet connection would be appreciated. Likewise, I still provide drawing and writing materials, but stimulation is lacking. I cannot be there every weekend and teaching rugby and helping drawing at the same time proves difficult!
Now that the ludicrous travel advisory has been lifted by the British Govt., there is a high possibility that volunteers will again be visiting the school in the future. Steve Summers, the new Director of Outreach International, has visited the school and hopes to place volunteers there later this year. This would help greatly, especially with extra-curricular activity.
The food programme for those children resident at the school is a very great success. For those who do not know, feeing the resident children does not fall within the school budget and relies entirely on contributions by the parents, many of whom are unable to help. Up until three years ago, the children subsisted on maize flour and beans alone, with occasional supplements from their own school garden. In conjunction with the owner of the local supermarket, a member of staff now collects fresh produce twice a week from the market so that each child has fresh produce, either veggies or fruit, every day, as well as a meal with meat twice a week. Since this was introduced, the incidence of sickness with the children has HALVED! This must obviously continue, no matter what! It is however becoming increasingly onerous, with costs increasing and the numbers of children rising. Total cost of this food programme is presently around £200 per month. One very generous family in UK already makes a regular donation towards this. If more help were to come forward it would enable me to direct my attention elsewhere.
Lastly, I must thank the various friends and family who have supported me and the school in recent times. I realise I have been somewhat dilatory in keeping people up to date. In the words of my own school report many years ago – “must do better”. I will try!