Anne lives in rural Kenya, and was an unmarried girl of 22 when she gave birth to her first son. There were substantial problems at the birth, and after 5 days in intensive care the doctors told Anne that her son had little chance of surviving. That day she named him ‘God Given’ because, as she puts it, “whatever happened, he was still God’s gift to me, and I loved him”.
Given, as he is now known, is 4 years old and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. With Given’s father out of work and unable to contribute financially, in an attempt to support herself and her son, Anne used to walk every day to the centre of town to pick up washing with Given strapped to her back with a scarf. She would then begin the hour walk home with Given in place, and the large bags strapped to her front; the contents needed to be washed, dried and returned within the day before Anne could be paid.
Life was clearly difficult for Anne – the only economic opportunity available to her required substantial physical labour that was tiring in itself, without the added weight of a 4 year old child.
Anne first asked social services for a wheelchair over two years ago, but despite repeated follow up requests and recommendations from local doctors, no wheelchair was forthcoming. In a characteristically resourceful bid to provide Given with the support she had been told he needed, Anne fashioned her own version of a wheelchair at home.
When Anne and Given arrived at the Walkabout distribution day, they were among the first families to receive a wheelchair. Given was initially unsure of himself in the chair, the sensation of being so secure unfamiliar to him (he was used to being strapped into his home made version with a length of rope). Within minutes of adjustments by expert physiotherapists, the chair was fitted to his body shape and size, and he was soon smiling again.
Anne too was absolutely thrilled, and brimming with ideas for the future. The chair is life changing for both mother and son. Anne plans to immediately start her own business selling her ‘Mandas’ cakes at a market stall in the neighbourhood – a huge step up from washing and unthinkable until today. As for Given, he will soon be able to go to the only place his mum has ever wanted him to go – a place that seemed an impossible dream until now – school.
The mothers of children we meet around the world often have a similar story to Anne – they are struggling and alone in giving their child the love, support and care that they know they need. No woman should be forced to make a choice between leaving their child at home or being unable to provide for them – and that’s why a wheelchair is so important; not only for the recipient, but also for the person that cares for them.