Saturday, June 13, 2015

Little Ambassadors

We get to see the impact of our ministry in a number of ways, but I often have a sense that there are ripple effects of which we only get tiny glimpses. 

I've had several opportunities recently to help children with special needs and their families access needed medical services. In each case I've seen a little testimony to the value of every human life through the winsomeness of these children coupled with the devotion of their foster parents in the presence of others who happen to be around. In one such case, a baby was referred to us by one of the hospitals here. He was born with a cleft lip & palate and, for that reason, he had been abandoned. While in our emergency care program (the first step for children referred to us where a child is cared for by a temporary substitute family while permanent placement options are explored) this little one had surgery to repair his lip. A foster family was identified for him and their first opportunity to meet him was taking him to his follow up visit at the hospital. I hate to say it, but I had just a little bit of anxiety. Would they accept him? Would it be difficult for them to see past what his own birth mother found too "different" to accept? My fears were quickly relieved! They were doting on him from the first moment they took him into their arms. Also, some of the hospital staff remembered him & were so pleased to see him with his new foster parents. They were very encouraging to them. As in other situations, it became known to bystanders that these parents were CHOOSING to love and care for this child. Accepted, Belonging, Loved, & Empowered - these are the words that form the acronym ABLE and it is so exciting to see children with special needs having these experiences. Even more exciting to see that it can spill over beyond the child's family to have a subtle, yet significant impact on their community. 

Another situation which I can barely write about without tears did not take place at a doctor's visit, but at a funeral. One of our dear little girls who had cerebral palsy recently passed away. If she had lived in the U.S. she would have received her nutrition through a tube going directly into her stomach because her motor problems made eating/swallowing such a constant struggle. But that wasn't an option for her here, and it was an ongoing battle to get enough food into her to meet her needs while, at the same time trying to guard her against chest infections due to having food enter her lungs. Finally, the battle was too much for her. It was a difficult loss, yet through it, the value of her precious life was broadcast to the whole community. Some who have not had the blessing of knowing a child like this dear little girl might be surprised that it would be such a loss, but her grieving foster mom made it evident how greatly she would be missed. All of her foster parents' adult children traveled to be at her funeral because she had been such a significant part of their family. Even though she had never spoken a word, her life and death gave witness that her life mattered - she had made a positive difference in the lives of others. 

This is obviously not the full message of the Gospel, but it is certainly one element of it. No matter what their situation or how they might be viewed by others, human beings matter, ultimately because they matter to God. I believe that the children and families with whom I have the privilege of working have the power to change people's perspectives and to be, in their own gentle, quiet way, ambassadors for the unconditional love of Christ.

Lisa Yunker
ABLE Program Technical Advisor

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Taking Steps - helping secure the right to learn

Photo courtesy of The Cambodia Trust
People generally want the best for their children. They want them to have everything they need to be happy, healthy, and engaged productively in their communities. We certainly want that for all of the children in the Children In Families ABLE program. ABLE is an acronym for accepted, belonging, loved, and empowered, and we are continually striving to do all that we can to live up to our name. One of the components of being equipped to engage productively in community is education, and all children deserve to receive an education which makes appropriate accommodation for their needs to enable them to participate with the least restriction. This has come to be widely accepted as a universal right, even by governments of developing countries, such as Cambodia. That's a good thing.

Unfortunately, however, reality often falls far short of the ideal. Though there has been some positive forward movement, a recent article in the Phnom Penh post has Ngin Saorath, director of the Cambodian Disabled People's Organization (CDPO), quoted as saying, "For children reliant on wheelchairs, only 10 per cent of schools have ramps or seated toilets, and most will drop out young because their school is too far away." He explained that most children with Down syndrome or developmental disabilities are also prohibited from learning.

In the article, Saoroth stated that resources being centralised in Phnom Penh is another key issue, as most disabled and poor children live in outside provinces devoid of resources. (To read the full article click here.) 

As you may know, Children In Families' ABLE Program is taking steps to develop a respite day center in the rural village where we have the highest concentration of children. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is that we see it as an avenue toward building relationships with the local school in order to build a foundation for inclusion of more children with disabilities and better individualized support for those who are in school. 

Please pray for all of the pieces to come together and that we would be able to build good relationships with others in the community to make both the respite day center and, eventually, inclusion for all children with disabilities a reality in our little village out in Svay Rieng. 

If you would like to contribute to the ABLE program to help us with this project as well as other resources for children with disabilities in Cambodia click here. (Donations to the ABLE program are processed through WorldVenture and are tax deductible for U.S. donors)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Something New

The ABLE program now has it's own blog. If you missed our last newsletter, here are a couple of highlights:

MS, one of the children with visual impairment, had been very apprehensive about learning to walk for a long time but she is now willing to explore the area around her home guided by ABLE's physiotherapist, Srey Ny. MS is cared for by a loving foster mom who participates in activities to help her learn life skills. The ABLE program has arranged for her to receive special assistance at school and she is starting to be introduced to Braille. ABLE purchased Braille writing tablets so our Community Rehabilitation Team staff member, Savorn, can help her practice at home.

R is an adorable little boy with cerebral palsy who is in the Kinship Care program (Kinnect). He is cared for by his grandmother and his aunt. R is so excited about moving now that he realizes how much he is capable of doing! He works so hard and with such enthusiasm that he is making gradual progress day by day. His attitude is so inspiring!

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