Caring for those who are mentally and physically challenged in Kampala

Sr. Lydia with Residents
Sr. Lydia talks with residents
In one of the bigger disadvantaged areas of Kampala, Mengo Kisenyi, stands the Good Shepherd Center where over 250 mentally and physically challenged children and aged elderly unable to cope on their own, find a permanent home regardless of tribe, race, or religion.  This Center is run by the Missionaries of the Poor, a group of Religious Brothers.  Srs. Assumpta, Kathleen Hickey and I (Lydia) collaborate with the Brothers in rendering service to the residents of this Center.

Sr. Assumpta cares for young resident
Sr. Assumpta comforts a child
Unfortunately, even in 2008, many mentally and physically challenged children die because their parents/guardians are misinformed. Many children with correctable disabilities fail to get treatment at an early stage because people tend to associate disability with witchcraft and being cursed.  Many people are unaware that disability is a medical problem and can be treated. As a result, such children are often neglected by their families.  

About 60% of the children we work with suffer from brain damage, frequently as a result of cerebral malaria, meningitis, or epilepsy.  Some have congenital disabilities.

The conditions at the Good Shepherd Center are comfortable.  The carers, the nurse and the physiotherapist give the children one-to-one attention, cuddling them, keeping them clean, making lots of physical contact with them. Skills such as walking, talking and holding are taught in achievable Sr. Lydia holding childsteps.  The children by and large are sunny and need love, affection and attention.  Some get around crawling, using sticks, walkers, and they even play football!

The children are mainly orphans.  Some are HIV positive.  Some are here at the Center because of family breakdown, parental alcoholism or the stigma of disability. They are assessed by the physiotherapist who plans the rehabilitation programme for each child.

The carers and those who volunteer at the Center are aware that even if a child cannot speak and feed he/she still has a lot to offer.  Their feelings are important.  After a short time at the Center, the difference in the children is huge. 

Sr. Lydia d'Sa, FMSA