By Jesse Masai
Evelyn Telo, who lives with disability, was just out of high school in 1996. A committed Anglican from the Diocese of Eldoret in northwestern Kenya, she was eager to find help in her mobility.
“I was directed to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa’s Kikuyu Hospital (in Central Kenya) for rehabilitation. From the experience, God gave me the heart to change other people,” she said.
The neighboring Diocese of Kitale was carved out of the mother diocese of Eldoret in 1997.
“A community-based rehabilitation (CBR) project, birthed in Eldoret, moved to Kitale in the same year,” said Telo, who is now the project’s full-time coordinator in Kitale.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chemengich, Bishop of Kitale, said the CBR emerged out of a survey on the status of people served by the church.
“During the exercise, we discovered that there are some people who had been ignored by their families and community due to their disabilities,” he said. “We offered rehabilitation services to affected community members by sensitizing their families and the wider public. Then, as now, our main aim is to enable them to reach their full potential.”
The diocese started with six children in its one clinic in Kitale.
“We began by liaising with doctors and other specialists in this town,” Telo said. “We also trained 72 community health workers and clergy to aid in making referrals to us, which we would then refer to others. Increasingly, those living with disability are being recognized as normal people who need our care and an enabling environment.”
Telo has served as a therapist since 2003.
She added: “Some elders and local leaders resisted our intervention. Collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Health opened doors, especially through primary health care. We also began venturing into socioeconomic welfare. Our children have since [transitioned] from elementary school to higher institutions of learning and the workplace. Stigma is less, with reduced abandonments.”
The project is currently running in Trans-Nzoia, West Pokot, Turkana, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Baringo, and Bungoma counties in Kenya’s Rift Valley and Western regions.
Activities have included training to reduce stigma toward people with disability; identification and regrouping of affected persons; civic education at the communal level; organizing for clinics and referral cases at the diocesan level; arranging for packages to enable home rehabilitation programs; following up on beneficiaries to ensure they lead transformed lives; and advocacy to promote the well-being of affected individuals.
Through priests, church elders, lay readers, and national and local government officials, the diocese continues to identify more persons living with disability.
“Our main objective is to bring the face of God to humanity, make all humanity understand that we are made in God’s image, and prove to the world that disability is not inability,” Bishop Chemengich said.
According to diocesan statistics, generated in conjunction with partners in the health sector, the project has reached 1,357 people who suffer with neurological conditions and a further 2,470 grappling with other disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, visual impairment, and cleft lip and palate. Some patients are 18 and younger.
In collaboration with Africa Inland Church’s Kijabe Hospital, Cure International, Bethany Kids, and Kitale Country Hospital, the diocese now offers six free clinics annually in its main hall.
One of CBR’s miracle stories with Kijabe Hospital involves Mily Ogola.
“She came to our office at the age of 4, with a case of spina bifida,” Chemengich noted. “She was referred to the hospital for surgery. She continued learning and completed high school, before proceeding to college. She is now a businesswoman.
“Considering the scope of the program, our primary and urgent challenge is mobility amongst physically challenged children and adults. There is a high demand for wheelchairs, special chairs, elbow crutches, walking frames, pop for casting clubfoot, and prosthesis limbs.
“We need our own hospital to provide services in proximity. Wheelchairs, especially for children with palsy, are of particular concern to us. Over 70 people are currently on our waiting list. It is a sensitive area of ministry which requires support.”
Annual Need for Support Equipment: Diocese of Kitale
Source: Anglican Diocese of Kitale