While every child may dream of fame or fortune, only few will actually be so lucky. Take a look at Steven, 14, who has been mentally handicapped and developed very slowly as a consequence. His reading- and comprehension skills are far below average. On a good day, he can handle numbers up to 30 or 50. His physical skills were all but absent. Steven always seems to cross the finishing line last – quite literally. The usual reaction from many teachers would be to let a pupil like Steven repeat, repeat – and repeat again. In Steven’s case, he would probably have stayed in Primary 1 for seven consecutive years.
However, we strongly believe that how we treat the weakest amongst us, is where we make the biggest difference. So, instead of ignoring Steven, our school promoted him to second, third and fourth class, despite his intellectual shortcomings. His participation in class is sketchy and he often wanders off to walk around the school grounds quietly.
Nevertheless, I am encouraged time and again, when I meet him at the village. He interacts with most of the other children, he will share some fruits that he picked in the garden for example. Some of the kids give him little tasks, like copying small amounts of text, most of which he can only read with trouble. And last week – as you can see on the attached picture – he managed to finish a local half-marathon. He came in last. But look how happy he was!!
Most amazingly, this week, Steven went to see our farm manager and asked to be given a regular duty. Now this seems strange for a regular 14-year old boy – as duties on our farm usually start before sunrise. But consider this: Steven, 14, an intellectually handicapped boy, has reflected about a proper job and a place for him in society. He makes us proud. Imagine if more children try to figure out what they can do for their society. He may never lead an ordinary life. But what a powerful sign to see Steven create a meaningful role for him in society in a lasting way!
Before I close, I raise a special appeal to you. Next year, Kids of Africa wants to help refugee-children, who fled to Uganda. You may not know, but Uganda has become the country with the largest share of refugees, globally in 2017. That is because of the debilitating crisis in neighbouring South-Sudan. We hope that their home-country recovers soon and they can return safely, as most of them long for. But in the meantime, especially the children need help. We seek to start a school for primary and vocational skills for local- and refugee-children alike in the northern border-region of Uganda.
This is a war-torn region where sad memories remain fresh but solidarity among survivors is exemplary. During the coming weekends, I will write more about this. In the meantime, your help is worth every penny! Thank you!