The power of connecting a community

3 July 2023

In a family of six sons, Dorcas is the only daughter. She is named after her late grandmother.

“We were very happy to have an addition to the family, especially since I always wanted a baby girl,” Dorcas’s Mum, Amani, reflected.

“I remember my mother and I going to fetch firewood and water. That was our moment to bond. I expected the same for my daughter and I, but fate had it different for us.

My pregnancy journey was no different from my others. The hospitals are far away and, since nothing happened to my previous pregnancies, why would this one be any different?”

Unfortunately, Dorcas’ mother had a prolonged labour, lasting around five days. As the nearby health centre was too expensive, Dorcas was delivered at home with the help of Amani ’s mother-in-law.

Everything seemed normal, all seemed okay, until Dorcas was 18 months old and Amani noticed Dorcas had not reached milestones such as sitting or supporting her head.

“My Dorcas was different! I tried seeking all sorts of help, including from traditional healers, but all was in vain. I could not enrol Dorcas in any nearby schools as they were unable to support her additional needs. But we also weren’t able to afford the fees of the special schools.”

Dorcas stayed at home for the next few years until a neighbour told Amani about a nearby education centre where children with disabilities could be assessed and supported into school placements.

It was only here, after many years of confusion, that Dorcas was diagnosed with hearing loss, low vision, and cerebral palsy.

“I was devastated but the assessor reassured me by telling me about Sense International and how Dorcas could benefit from it.

My prayers were answered!

I was told there would be someone employed to support Dorcas in school, called a Learning Support Assistant. The better part is that the assistant would be a lady from my community, called Binti.”

“Dorcas had just turned eleven. She barely had any speech and could not read or write. Her mobility was limited, and her social skills were poor.

Binti received my girl with a lot of enthusiasm and assured me that Dorcas was in safe hands.

Dorcas has now been supported by Binti for two years. I’m so proud of how much Dorcas’s speech has improved as well as her academic performance, she has started to write letters and recite the alphabet.

She has friends who walk her to school and back, which has really helped with her mobility and confidence.

Sense International even provided my girl with a walking frame, you should have seen Dorcas trying to run after the other children! It was an epic scene!” Dorcas’s mum recalled.

When Dorcas had her first period it was a tough moment for her family as they could not afford to buy sanitary towels.

“This was the scariest for all of us. I could not afford to buy sanitary towels and so Dorcas had to miss school. I wasn’t sure how to tell Binti about this. However, she realised what was happening as it wasn’t normal for Dorcas to miss school. Binti informed us that Dorcas’s school provided sanitary towels for free, which we now receive every month. She also even taught Dorcas how to use sanitary towel by herself”.

Now Dorcas can confidently attend school with no need to miss out.

“My village community are amazed by the progress she has made. We all thought she would never go to school, let alone all of the things she is doing now independently!

I thank you for making my only girl happy.”

Sense International trains members of local communities to become Learning Support Assistants. This helps to build greater understanding of deafblindness throughout the community.

80% of Learning Support Assistants trained by Sense International Kenya are still employed by the schools they were placed in.

We are continuing to advocate the Ministry of Education to fund Learning Support Assistants in every school they are needed bringing a whole community together in providing this special support.