|Support groups changing lives|
At KAIH we work primarily through support groups for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. We believe that by bringing people together they become more powerful: they can campaign for change and for the rights of those with intellectual disability; they can save funds together and set-up income generating projects to improve their financial security; and most importantly of all they can provide moral support and encouragement for one another.
KAIH’s General Secretary Fatma Wangare explains more: “I have a daughter with dyslexia and for me one of the most challenging issues was the way my friends and neighbours responded when she was diagnosed; many people stopped their children from playing with her and avoided us. I felt shut out and lonely and was angry on behalf of my daughter. We know that many people are treated in this way – some parents even hide their children at home to avoid community disapproval.
“That’s why it’s so important for parents to realize that they are not alone. As a group, people gather the confidence and strength to include their children in their community, educate others and change people’s attitudes: it’s very powerful. In addition, the groups make it easier for their children to be assessed by the education authorities, and create a voice to pressure the authorities into recognizing the rights of those with intellectual disabilities. It is much harder to ignore 30 people.”
One such parent group is Gataki Support Group in the small village of Gakindu, Nyeri. Set up in October 2008, the group is well-established with 42 members. Its Chairman, John Njagi, explains the group’s income generating project:
“We saw that many of our older children with intellectual disabilities needed work and practical activity to keep them occupied and ensure they are included in village life. At the same time, many families were seriously struggling financially due to the additional costs of medicines and the full-time care needed by their children, which can make it difficult for us to work.
“We decided that a rabbit-rearing project would help to address these problems and with support from KAIH we bought the rabbit hutches and our first young rabbits. Our children and parents in the group work together to care for the rabbits, managing their feed and maintaining their hutches. When we sell the adult rabbits we make around Kshs 500 for one rabbit and of course the meat is good to eat.
“So far the project has proved very successful and we are considering other ways to increase our funds and improve the lives of our children. By working together we believe we can change our situation.”
To date KAIH has 45 support groups in five regions of Kenya, and is growing all the time. Our support groups are at the heart of everything we do.
Picture one: Gataki Support Group members, Nyeri
Picture two: the rabbit-rearing project