Transforming lives in Ethiopia with a new kindergarten

New kindergarten in Woreda 1 It’s always exciting to hear from our colleagues overseas how the projects you support are transforming lives and this week, we’re able to share about our slum development project in Ethiopia.

We’ve been working with our partner organisation Life in Abundance Ethiopia to transform lives in the Woreda 1 slum area of Addis Ababa, home to a community of people affected by leprosy. The project is making a difference through a combination of improved housing and sanitation, employment and micro-credit opportunities, as well as self-care training to prevent disability. One key aspect of our work there has been the building of a new kindergarten for the community – helping ensure that the poorest of the poor have access to education.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Until recently, the only state-run (i.e. non fee-paying) school in the area didn’t have the capacity to accommodate all the local children, meaning that many were forced to stay at home, missing out on learning and play and facing the dangers of being left alone while their parents went out to work. Some children were also being taken out on to the streets to beg.

Previously, with no childcare available for the youngest children in Woreda 1, many women have had to stay at home to care for them, meaning that they cannot work. For families living in such abject poverty, a parent not working frequently means the family must go hungry, increasing their risk of malnutrition and illness.

The kindergarten is now open and already having a huge impact on the lives of people affected by leprosy and their families.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Parents are happy to have a state pre-school facility near to their homes – for them, there are now no more worries about choosing between paying for school or simply not going. Their children are safe there, no longer deprived of early years education and enjoying modern facilities and equipment. Importantly for children so young, the focus is on learning through play and age appropriate activities.

And it’s not just the pupils who are experiencing the benefits of the kindergarten. Parents of younger children are now free to work and earn a living to support their families, and they no longer have to worry about the safety of children left at home or taken out onto the streets to work.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Staff and parents now have plenty of plans for the kindergarten’s future, including securing support so that the most vulnerable children will be provided with uniforms and school materials, and working with parents to improve opportunities for employment.

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Stories from Nepal: Mahendra

Partnership Manager Louise Timmins blogs from Nepal, where she has been visiting Anandaban Hospital and meeting some of the people whose lives have been devastated by the earthquakes.

10 July 2015

Today is a very special day for me. It’s exactly 4 years ago that I first met my beautiful daughter Marika at a small orphanage near Kathmandu! Being here on this anniversary is lovely.

I really wanted to see how all the children there were managing after the earthquake so Shovakhar and I drove the short distance through the city and out in to the countryside to the orphanage. As we passed the women in brightly coloured saris bent over picking rice in the paddy fields, all the memories came back of this exciting journey 4 years ago.

The children were just coming back from school as I arrived. Amazingly I could recognise many of the little faces – they were all about 16 months old when I was last here, the same age as Marika. They were all so happy to see a visitor ‘Aunty, Aunty!’ they shouted, and it was a fight to see how many children could fit on my lap!

The earthquake had left huge cracks in the building, so the children are sleeping in temporary shelters made from tin sheets. It’s really hot inside and very uncomfortable. I kept thinking how hard it would be to move around a shelter in this heat if you had leprosy.

A child at Anandaban Hospital.
A child at Anandaban Hospital.

I have a real heart for orphans and children in need. In Nepal, a high number of children contract leprosy. The Leprosy Mission Nepal is doing an amazing job finding and treating these children so that they don’t develop disability and can go on to lead a normal life.

Sometimes though, children in remote regions don’t get the medicine they need in time to stop terrible disability caused by leprosy.

Mahendra at Anandaban Hospital
Mahendra at Anandaban Hospital

Mahendra is 16 years old and is one such young person. He has one leg, serious ulceration and badly deformed hands. He cannot walk and uses a wheelchair to move around in the hospital ward at Anandaban. He sat with me and shared his story:

“When I was 6 I saw white patches on my arms. I poked them but I couldn’t feel it; it was very strange to me. I didn’t understand what was happening.  I ignored it for a couple of years, but when I couldn’t straighten my fingers, my family took to a doctor and he said I had leprosy. I didn’t take any medicine, I don’t know why now.

“Slowly I lost all feeling in my hands, and my fingers started to bend further and further in to my palms- I couldn’t straighten them at all. I couldn’t hold a pen, or catch a ball and it was very hard to find friends. My feet were the same, I couldn’t feel a thing. I kept cutting them and then the wound would turn in to a big ulcer.

“Finally I came to Anandaban and have taken medicine to cure me for the last two years. I can’t get my fingers back though; it’s too late for that. My foot ulcers got so bad that I had my left leg amputated 3 months ago. I’ve been here for 14 weeks now.

“My family never come to visit me, that makes me sad. I really miss them. When I am better I would like to open a small shop. That would make my family proud.

“I am so happy that I came to this hospital. Everyone is so kind and I have been treated well.”

Mahendra is going to be measured for a prosthetic limb next week. They take six weeks to make and by the time it is ready, his wound will have healed. It’s going to take a long time and lots of physiotherapy before Mahendra will be able to walk again.

In the meantime, a teacher comes to the hospital twice a week to help Mahendra with his studies. He’s also made plenty of friends on the ward who sit and play games with him.

Mahendra has a huge smile and I’m convinced he has the willpower to get out of his wheelchair and open his shop.

Jenny’s Nepal blog: Aman’s story

Aman, an 11-year-old boy receiving treatment at Anandaban Hospital.
Aman, an 11-year-old boy receiving treatment at Anandaban Hospital.

Aman is an eleven year old boy I met on the men’s ward on Thursday. He was diagnosed with leprosy about two months ago but has had to be hospitalised due to severe reaction. His body’s immune system has reacted badly to the leprosy bacillus and consequently he has joint and nerve pain, a fever and some paralysis in his hands. His sadness fills the space around him. He lost his father two years ago and has not recovered so to find he is now facing leprosy is a hard blow to bear. His mother has to stay at home to care for his sister so he feels alone here.

But, and as in my last blog, there is always a but, he has been befriended by another older boy, also in much pain, who has seen his loneliness and is trying to help him. He sneaked out of the hospital yesterday and took Aman to the local bazaar for an outing.

And he is having treatment, both to cure the leprosy and to help the reaction. The doctor in charge spoke very movingly to us: “We have little protocol for treating small children, we need the drugs to be effective but do no harm. If they, the patients suffer, I suffer.”

What a place! I have been moved to tears today, and also played and laughed with children in a local village, tripping over chickens and ducks as we played.