It is Wednesday morning and I am alone in the house. Jori headed off to school today; a new year and she is now in Grade 6!! My baby is a 6th grader! She was a bit nervous to head out the door today as her big brother was not with her in the car; A new school year for sissy at the same school, a new school year for brother in a new school. Today is the first day of #schooloffey, which is homeschooling and unschooling (don’t roll your eyes) and just being with our boy. He will learn. He’s too smart not to, and we will learn as well.
Right now the house is quiet because Darin had to run errands and took #schooloffey on the road. I did actually come up with a writing assignment for Tyson, but he can work on it this afternoon or tomorrow. After that, it will have to wait because mom and dad will be packing up and flying off to Madagascar for 8 days and Tys will be learning with the Oosthuizen kids at their place for a week. We are thankful for friends who will watch our kids and teach them (learning to do chores without complaining would be a good lesson) while we are gone. This is mostly a business trip for Darin as he puts on his water filter distribution hat for most of the week, but it is also a 15th anniversary trip for us! I don’t know what we’ll be doing, but I think it involves lemurs and a rainforest. I will also be visiting a comprehensive program for people with disabilities through Growing the Nations https://www.facebook.com/GrowingTheNationsTherapyProgrammes and I am super excited about that.
I am sure if you have read this blog or if you know me, you have seen and heard about Amo. While she is one special girl who happens to have cerebral palsy, she is not the only child in our area who has a major disability and struggles from the lack of resources available to her and her family. I have been in and out of hospitals and clinics and I always strike up conversations with mothers, fathers and grannies that are caring for children like Amo. Over and over again I hear the same thing- there is nothing for my child. No school, no care centre, no safe place for my child to stay while I work, no place where they are seen and welcomed and loved for who they are. Most of the resources are in Pretoria or Johannesburg, and of the schools available, you will often find that a child is “too disabled” or “not disabled enough” for a certain program. There are limited special needs schools with hostels for sleeping in available, and sleeping in would be necessary for a disabled child from Hammanskraal if they attended school in Pretoria. I know more about what is and isn’t available for children with disabilities from our time at Tshepo ya Bana as we knew several differently-abled children during our time there, and there is a huge imbalance between the needs and the availability of resources.
So, I made a decision that in 2017 I was going to do more than just talk to people about what they need and actually see if something can be done to get some of these needs met. Yesterday I went to Jubilee hospital and talked with a social worker, a physiotherapist and 3 very lovely occupational therapists. I told them that I wanted to put out some flyers at the next CP clinic with a meeting date for caregivers who want to talk about what they would like to see for their children in Hammanskraal; a school, a residential program, a drop in/respite centre, or something else entirely. Then I want to be a support for them as the community decides what they want and takes steps forward to make it happen. It can be difficult for people here to know how to organize and to find out what the possibilities are and to dream a bit. Too often those who seek assistance for a disabled child are told, “No, this is not available for your child”, and this has got to change. I don’t know what this will look like, and honestly, while I was waiting to see the social worker yesterday I started thinking “God, is this really something you have laid on my heart or did I just make the whole thing up?”, but I know this is the time to move from talk to action. It might be a bit of an uphill climb at first as several of the moms I talk with at the CP clinic will later say “Why does this white lady ask about my child. Does she want to take him?” (translated from Tswana by Amo’s auntie), so I will need to earn their trust and respect.
Back to school, stepping out from fear to faith and leaving on a jet plane. Throw in laundry, grocery shopping and packing and this week is full!