International Service Learning: Heshima Children’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya

For the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to work with 3 new grad PTs, a pre-PT student, and an incredible pediatric PT alongside passionate local physiotherapists here in Nairobi, Kenya.  

Heshima translated from Swahili means dignity.  The Heshima Foundation believes that all human beings are made in the image of God, regardless of their outward appearance. Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female, He created them.”  This children’s day center for disabilities is a safe haven for about 27 children and their mothers. With about 42 tribes here in Kenya, the majority believe that those with disabilities are cursed and should be left to die.  Some of these tribes dispose of children with disabilities by throwing them into the bushes in “hopes” of being eaten by lions, while other tribes give cattle colostrum which is known to solidify in the GI tract to cause a painful death.  At times, the mother is to blame for the child’s disability and is ostracized by the child’s father and all family members. These women are subjected to feelings of shame and guilt and are forced into isolation. They are left alone to care for a child with special needs. 

By the grace of God, some of these women find Heshima. This fortress provides breakfast and lunch, basic educational instruction depending on the need of the child, as well as occupational, physical and speech therapy. But most importantly, it provides a community where these children can be children and where mothers can lean on each other for support. My mom has always told me, you’ll never understand the extent of a mother’s love until you become a mother. I’m not a mom, but the mothers of Heshima have demonstrated this unconditional love. They have literally fought fiercely to keep their children alive.  I’m in awe of their strength and blessed by their children’s smiles.  As you peruse my pictures, I hope that you see the face of hope through all the joy and laughter they bring this world. 

Heshima is completely funded by donations, so if you should feel inclined to donate to this beautiful organization please check out their website: http://www.heshima.org.

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