Some know that I spent time in Rwanda a few years ago. We have good friends who moved there full time to run a rescue home. When I landed, I was quickly informed there were no other SLPs in the whole country. Many came to the house I was staying in to ask for help with their children. We also were taken around to see what the lives of those with special needs are like in Rwanda. The most eye-opening experience I had was the day I visited the Special Needs Room at Mother Teresa’s Orphanage..
Inside the room was a sight that would shock most Americans. It was a ~ 15’x15′ room with cement floors and solid blue walls. In one corner was a painting of Jesus and there were a few cabinets along another. A few low lying cribs were pushed against a wall and two children were lying in them. In the center of the room a large silver tarp was laying on the ground, with 6-8 children lying on it or scooting across it on their bottoms. It was there to catch leaking diapers, as they are typically allowed only a few diaper changes a day. There was one toy on the tarp for them all to play with, but many lacked the ability to move and just laid staring at the blank ceiling. The staff was seated on the tarp, washing children, changing diapers and clipping fingernails. A few were singing and talking to the children, which amazed me since Faith says this is not typically seen in this culture. Adults roles are to supervise in Rwandan culture, not interact. I went in and sat on the edge of the tarp. Children who could move scooted to me and fell into my lap, while the immobile ones tried to look at me out of the corner of their eyes. I sat singing songs to the ones in my lap, and rubbing the arms and stomachs of the ones who couldn’t move. Their eyes were transfixed on me, listening to my songs and giving me the biggest smiles. I watched a small girl interact with those around her, no true words but she had figured out a way to get her needs met and would wave at the Sisters and workers as they came into the room. I truly believe she had CP, with the full potential to learn language and possibly walk given the appropriate services (which are not available here). Another child sat in the corner making raspberries with his lips. I went over to him and talked to him, making faces with him. He stopped and just watched me for the longest time, as we sat there talking a few of the other children scooted near to listen and lay on my legs. When it was time for me to go, I carefully laid the children back on the tarp on the cement floor and went to leave, which caused them to cry hysterically. As I looked around the room at all of these sweet souls, my heart broke.
My friends in the country have taken in many children, most born out of rape during the genocide or children of those children. Because those children are half Hutu and half Tutsi, they are left to fend for themselves on the streets. My family is helping to start a school there, and we are trying to raise enough money to actually build a school building, start training staff, purchase curriculum and more.
One thing the children desperately need are books. A local Usborne distributor is working with us to make that happen. Between now and November 20th you can buy books through this link and 50% of your purchase total will go towards us buying books for the children in Rwanda! If you’d like, you can even buy books for the children at the rescue home and we will STILL get the 50% to buy even more books! Think about the amazing note you can tuck into a book this Christmas, letting people know that they gift helped send a gift to children in Africa!
Please consider this option when Christmas shopping this year – on behalf of these little sweethearts, Thank You!
-Tara, the Speechy Keen SLP