The importance of being valued
by Ed Epp
A nine-year-old girl in the slums of Kinshasa sat in her new wheelchair. I knew that she was now in school for the first time and I was excited to be there to record the success story of her being mobile and in school.
But when she told me she had no friends and that no one would play with her, her words crushed my spirit.
I can give you the statistics. The reality is that children with a disability are four times more likely to die before reaching their fifth birthday. Families with disabilities have half the income of their neighbours. Ninety percent of children with a disability in the developing world are not in school, and when they are, they seldom thrive. A child with a disability is 3-4 times more likely to experience abuse. In emergencies like a cyclone or drought, families with a disability can’t compete for scarce resources, and are often left out of feeding programs.
Children with disabilities do not easily find hope. Their world is all too often brutal and scary. All children, regardless of their abilities – or disabilities – are made in God’s image, loved by God and deserve the same opportunities.
Ernst Christoffel was a pastor living in Iran. More than 100 years ago he brought street children with disabilities into his home, because he felt the love of Christ left him no choice. He became the founder of Christian Blind Mission.
What do children caught in the cycle of poverty and disability need to live happy, healthy lives? What do their families need to support and advocate for their children with special needs?
Today, the answers to these questions have taken cbm Canada back to the vision of Ernst Christoffel and beyond sight issues. Cerebral Palsy is epidemic in developing countries. Orthopaedic issues, neglected tropical diseases, clubfoot, cleft lip, and hearing impairment are among the most disabling conditions for children.
Today Christian Blind Mission (cbm) focuses on children with all disabilities. To better reflect this truth, the ministry name was changed from cbm Canada (Christian Blind Mission) to Hope and Healing International.
Hope is ultimately about healing the heart – believing you are valued and valuable. Healing comes through medical interventions that bring mobility, reducing barriers to education, and opening up a child’s world. Real healing goes beyond the physical to heal the community’s attitudes towards those who have disabilities. Healing must include families that care and are champions for their children. Healing is about working with other Christian and secular agencies to ensure families with disabilities have access to their programming. Healing reflects God’s hope for the whole world – not only a part of it – through Jesus Christ.
Healing brings hope. Hope brings healing.
What does success look like for Hope and Healing International? Success is when a child has confidence that they are made in God’s image, worthy of education and secure in friendships – regardless of ability. Success is when that child grows up to have a job, is contributing to their community, valued as a neighbour, and has the choice to be a spouse and loving parent to their own children.
I was inspired by the confidence of another girl in rural Malawi. She had Cerebral Palsy and her mother was being taught to provide her physiotherapy. She had a locally-made walker that she was eager to show us. She struggled to her feet, grabbed the walker, and took some steps. As she delighted us with her energy, she engaged with the other children standing around, making sure they knew that the visitors were there to see her. She knew she had value and exuded confidence. She has a long road of healing ahead of her – but hope had already been ignited in her heart.
Ed Epp is the Executive Director of Hope and Healing International.