In many of our partner countries, people with disability are some of the most marginalised within a community. In these settings there are beliefs or superstitions about disability and its cause. There are still places where disability is a seen as punishment or a curse. This can make accessing everyday services challenging for people with disability.
At GMP, we value all people and their contributions as partners in our programs. Each person has a unique contribution to make. As we work with our partners and program participants, it’s crucial to listen to all of their voices. This means making sure the most vulnerable people clearly have their voices heard. This ensures that projects are serving the needs of all people within a community.
A part of listening to, and learning from, our partners is understanding how people in their context view vulnerable people. Recently we talked with Paulino Malou, Director of Christian Mercy International (CMI), about attitudes towards disability in South Sudan. Paulino has worked with CMI’s Emmanuel School since it opened 10 years ago. Through this work, he has seen first-hand how people view children with disability.
“[Some people in South Sudan] think and assume that God was very annoyed and unhappy with such a family who produced children with disability,” Paulino says. “And with that, they keep them around to wait for death, rather than support them to participate in the family like other children in the household.
“The community sometimes would deny children with disability from accessing education or schooling. Some of them would need wheelchairs, and other community members thought that they would not contribute to the development in future, hence no need to waste the resources. They would prefer to allow other children without disability to access the school.”
It’s vital that such attitudes don’t stop children with disability from being included in schooling. Time and education can change people’s attitudes. Meanwhile, it’s important that kids living with disability are able to access education like any other.
Paulino is not going to sit back and wait for attitudes to change by themselves! Emmanuel School is already working to make sure children with disability are included and embraced.
“Emmanuel has played a most significant role in the communities of Ayat and Aweil,” Paulino says. “For example, showing the love, showing justice for all, and showing mercy to others.”
“I have suggestions for the mothers and fathers with disability in the community, that we would help them with wheelchairs. It would help them to do something in terms of transport from one village to another.”
In the last year, Emmanuel School gave out three wheelchairs. Two of these went to children with reduced mobility already attending the school. The use of a wheelchair has made it much easier for them to get around! The third was given to a former student, who is now married and has children. Other children who have been unable to attend school due to disability will also receive a wheelchair.
Emmanuel School also provides goats to families of vulnerable children. This helps them to raise an income to pay for their education. Some of the people given goats are families with parents or children with disability. You can read more about the Goat Project in last month’s In Partnership.
We wouldn’t be able to see these changes without supporters like you. Whether it’s giving to the COCOA Christmas Offering, or giving the Great Gift of a Goat, your partnership in COCOA projects helps people like Paulino push for more positive change in their communities. Your support and prayers encourage Paulino as he keeps working hard to support kids with disability at Emmanuel School.
“I’m glad to share with you my views, and what I know about the perspective of the local people here in the community.” Paulino says. “Thank you very much!”