UPDATE: Through an exciting new partnership between TPO Uganda and the Polus Center, you can now donate a goat to a mentally disabled child in Uganda and transform a life, family, and community. Read below to learn more. Click here to give. Thank you all for your interest, love and support. Through your encouragement over the past year we were able to make this possible.
In the camps and in the villages, finding a way to address the unique issues surrounding children with special needs is of vital importance . It is rare to see a special needs child, and even rarer still (almost never happening) to see an adult with mental disabilities and special needs.
It is believed that for every special needs child seen, at least one (or several) exist. Why are they not a visible part of the community? Why don't we see special needs adults?
It must be assumed that most special needs children don't make it to adulthood. There may be many reasons for this, including limited food supply and necessitated decision making for parents with many, many mouths to feed. Additionally, mental disabilities are often understood to be a curse or spiritual malady, and attempts to "cure" it isn this fashion often go awry.
Special needs children are sometimes found by workers locked in tukuls, being fed adequately but not cared for properly or integrated into family and community life. This is due to both the social stigma (would you want your neighbors to treat you as cursed?) and a general lack of knowledge about mental illnesses. Parents often have no concept of their child's potential and actual limitations, and don't know how to provide the best care.
Often, a special needs child becomes a major secret within a family, which (in a very communal society) breeds isolation, and sometimes problems like alcoholism and violence within the family. But let's back up....
How is anyone supposed to be able to help at all, if we can't even identify families with these children in the first place? Enter TPO's goat project!
IN communities where this was found to be a prevalent problem, TPO began a (now very succesful)program. It goes something like this:
It is announced that any child with special needs will receive a goat free of charge. The goat is only given directly to the child. A parent may not receive the goat on the child's behalf. In a context where goats provide much needed food and income (think milk, cheese, and then breeding for meat), this is a highly valuable comodity.
Giving the goat allows TPO to identify the child and family and see if individual, family interventions are necessary. Is there abuse? Starvation? A feeling of overwhelming helplessness? What is the situation? Community members are usually intrigued, and facilitated community dialogues, sensitization and education can begin. Slowly, over time, this leads to a change in attitudes and understanding of special needs children. Often,support groups are started as families with these children learn, with great relief, that they are not alone. Finally, the child, who now OWNS a goat has status within the family and a small charge to care for and love. And all for a $45 goat. The continued, positive results -- even after goats have ceased to be given -- have been overwhelming.
TPO has recently identified several new villages where they will begin the project for the first time. Anyone want to give a goat?