Kupenda for the Children, a nonprofit organization whose main innovation center is in Kilifi County, Kenya, is engaging community leaders and families to replace harmful beliefs surrounding disability with those that improve lives. In many countries across the globe, people impacted by disability are viewed as cursed, leading to their neglect, abandonment, abuse, rape, or even murder.
Kupenda for the Children co-founder and CEO, Cynthia Bauer, states, “These beliefs often pose greater challenges for children with disabilities than their physical limitations.”
According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 billion people in the world, 16% of the population, “have a disability severe enough that it limits their participation in family, community, and political life.” Among these, children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and excluded groups in society.
Kupenda for the children works with local populations to provide education, medical care, and advocacy so that children with disabilities are able to reach their full potential.
One of the pillars of their advocacy approach is their Disability Outreach and Inclusion Workshops. Bauer explains, “When we facilitate discussions about disability, participants often develop a more accurate understanding of the causes of disability and the issues impacting children with disabilities. Many of these participants then work to teach others what they have learned and provide innovative strategies to make their communities more inclusive.”
For parents like Esther Chengo, neighbors originally blamed her for her childrens’ disabilities. Fortunately, a Kupenda-trained community leader reached out to Esther and offered support. Chengo stated, “It is through Kupenda that my children are loved, accepted, and included in the family and the community at large.”
According to Kupenda co-founder and Kenya Executive Director, Leonard Mbonani, “Children who could have been killed by their own parents are alive. Hundreds of these children access medication and education while families and communities are showing love to these children with disabilities. I have seen rejected children who have become passionate enough to be voices for their colleagues who are voiceless.”
Today, Kupenda’s disability advocacy approach in Kenya is being replicated in 17 other countries worldwide, serving as a model to others of what is possible with appropriate resources and support.