Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

PAULA: THE FACES of SHERP (Samburu Handicapped Education Rehabilitation Program)

SHERP is located in the small dusty arid market town of Maralal in Northern Kenya and was founded in 1999 by a teacher of the blind, Grace Seneiya. Samburu disabled children suffer much. Not only from conditions of poverty, drought, disease and government corruption rampant throughout Africa, but from a traditional Samburu belief that disabled children are a curse.

The Samburu are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Cattle, as well as sheep, goats and camels, are of utmost importance to the Samburu culture and survival. Disabled children are considered a bad omen to their nomadic families and are often left behind when their families move on. Some are poisoned with tobacco, or buried alive. Grace, who is a Samburu, has rescued many such children from the brink of death.

The SHERP goal is to assist and teach children to overcome their disabilities and to live productive lives. They also advocate and educate the community to help change the stigma associated with being disabled. I had the privilege of training the staff how to use the expressive arts to help children express their pain and grief. All abilities and ages enjoyed playing with the puppets, drawing and singing to “not so great” harmonic music.