By Kaitlin Shendale
In the morning, the Kande disability group meets at the local clinic. Gathered around Matilda, Ripple Africa’s Disability and Rehabilitation Project Manager, there are children and adults, family and friends, making their way into the clinic with smiles and greetings. Chisomo and his mother Lenne are some of the newer faces seen in the group.
Chisomo is four years old and has cerebral palsy. However, it doesn’t stop this little boy from smiling, which would capture anyone’s heart in seconds.
As Chisomo sits on the mats waiting his turn to see Matilda, you can gather how bright this young boy is. Playing with the connectable blocks, he loves to make cars, turning to his mother, “galimoto”! The local language word for “car” may be Chisomo’s favourite word as he pushes the wonky toy vehicle.
His relationship with his mother is an unspoken bond; you can feel her love for her son just by the glances between them. At 25 years old, Lenne only has her one son Chisomo. She lives with her husband and mother-in-law in Kande village. She spends her days tending to their house while her husband picks up any building jobs he can find.
She shares her struggles with Matilda while in the group, mainly being that Chisomo can not walk due to his condition. Therefore she carries him with her whenever she can. When she can not bring him along, he’s left with neighbours and their children on a play mat outside neighbouring houses. But sadly she exclaims, “they often leave him behind” because of his limitations. It breaks her heart to know her son can’t run with the other children, and she feels guilty of having to leave him at all.
Chisomo is turning five in the coming weeks, and through conversation, Matilda found out Chisomo has had no formal education and is not registered in any pre-schools. Lenne explains she was always too scared to bring him to school, worried something could happen to her young boy. You can see the pain that comes from her while she shares her story, knowing she only ever wants to protect her baby from the harsh world they live in.
The disability group creates this warmth of security; even if it’s only a few hours once a week. The small group in the clinic provides the comfort of belonging. Mothers, fathers, boys and girls who may struggle with a disability live in a society where often they are made to feel different. Even known to have extreme cases of being shunned from your family based on a medical issues. The disability group Matilda runs is far from that reality; with open arms and social connections made through the group, a new found family is made.
Recently, the emotional and physical support from the group gave Lenne the push to registered Chisomo for the next school year. An opportunity Chisomo deserves despite his limitations and the chance to start his young life. As Chisomo grows, so does Lenne, even with her fears she grows with new courage. She learns that her love for Chisomo won’t tarnish in life challenges they may face together, as mother and son.
Matilda will work with Lenne and Chisomo to create a plan that will help this little boy learn to walk and achieve other milestones. Matilda regularly carries out awareness workshops both within community and at local schools to help create a more accepting society that includes everyone.