Monday, March 9, 2009

Special Children in Kenya

Shadrack is a sweet young orphan boy who had a life-threatening brain abscess. Because of friends who joined together to raise the funds, he was able to have brain surgery in 2007.
He has made great progress from the time before he had the surgery. But he has been diagnosed with mild retardation as a result of the effects of the abscess. His biggest challenge is short-term memory.

Shadrack is now at a special school for mentally challenged children in north Nairobi called Treeside. We are blessed to have a terrific sponsor for Shadrack -- a Houston youth group called Corby's Castle.

I was able to visit Treeside in January and saw what a wonderful environment it is for special kids. Mama Margaret had been telling me for a long time what a great job they were doing for Shadrack and how it is an excellent environment for kids like Shadrack. When I saw for myself, it was clear why she was so enthusiastic about it.

The teachers at Treeside know how to deal with children who are eager to learn but need extra patience and love. Whereas a regular school would scold Shadrack for forgetting, Treeside understands his situation and can work to improve his retention.

Here is a picture of Shadrack with some of his school friends.

Treeside is a government school, which means it gets funding from the Kenyan government. Unfortunately, the amount per student is woefully inadequate. To make up the difference, Treeside has to charge school fees to feed, educate, and board the students -- adding up to several hundred dollars per year. As you can imagine, these expenses are too costly for most poor families. Yet the school does its best to make sure as many children can attend as possible, and tries to work with families that struggle to pay.

The director of the school is also named Margaret. She is standing at left with some of the students

Yesterday, I spoke with Jennifer Cheserek, who is a blind woman that receives assistance through our sponsorship program. Jennifer has a 26 year old daughter named Sarah that is mentally retarded and has been since birth.

Jennifer was telling me the struggles her family went through trying to find a good place like Treeside for Sarah. Once, long ago when Sarah was young, the family managed to borrow and save 10,000 shillings so that Sarah could go to a special school in Eldoret. But the school was not patient like Treeside, and after about a month, said that Sarah could not continue because she needed too much extra attention. Imagine, a brand new student and they gave up on her just like that!

Sadly, like the vast majority of children with special needs in Kenya, Sarah never attended another school and missed out on learning the life skills that only can be taught by an educator with the specialized training needed.

That is why we are so thankful for Treeside, and how they are helping children become more independent and grow up to have a fulfilling adulthood as well as contribute to society. If you are interested in learning more about Treeside, please email me at

Here's Mama Margaret in one of the dormatories with a Treeside student.