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Carol and Kari

Carol // From Isolation to Integration

Dear friends and family, greetings from Uganda! We miss you and hope you’re all doing very well. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve posted to the blog; we’ll work on being more consistent with keeping all of you up to date with the happenings in our lives and around our community! God is working in incredible ways and we have so many stories to share with you.

We would like to share with you the following story about a girl named Carol whom we met about three weeks ago in the slums:

Kari spends the beginning of each week traveling to various centers and organizations to work on speech therapy with students who have cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, or are hearing impaired or deaf. On Fridays she ventures into Katanga slum to meet with a handful of families there, and about three weeks ago on one such trip, was introduced to a young lady named Carol.

Carol is 13 years old but appears to be much younger. At the age of three, Carol’s mother left Carol and her father on their own. Since then—for the past ten years—Carol’s father has locked her in the house every morning before he goes to work, leaving her cooped up all day, not returning until late in the evening. This precious girl has been locked away for ten years—years that are some of the most formative and that should have been spent in school or running around with other children, exploring and learning and playing.

Carol was brought to Kari on this day by a neighbor whose child also has special needs. We will write more later about this amazing mother and the work she is doing to change the perception of disabilities within her community in the slums! She is incredible and her story is so inspiring. When this mother found out about Carol’s situation, she asked if she could care for Carol during the day when her father is at work. Her father gladly accepted and she has been caring for Carol, along with her own children, since that day.

When Kari first saw Carol, it appeared that she might have autism. However, because of her situation, it’s difficult to be sure of this, but autism or some other impairment or disability would certainly explain her father’s choice to lock her away. You see, in the Ugandan culture, people with disabilities are treated like the lepers in the Bible. They are isolated and shamed. In America, there is a very present and persistent stigma when it comes to special needs and disabilities, and in most African countries, people with such impairments are viewed in an even harsher light and are often cast out or abandoned. Many believe that disorders, disabilities and other afflictions are deserved and that they stem directly from sins or wrongs committed by the afflicted one or their family members. For the same reason, many of those who could benefit from medical or psychological assistance do not receive it because it is widely believed that they can be healed only by repentance, through the intercession of pastors, or casting out of “evil spirits”.

The shame and disgrace associated with those with special needs has been a great source of frustration and heartache for us as we work to encourage, support, assist, and serve this exact demographic. Rather than allowing the practice of ostracizing or locking away those who suffer or do not “fit in” to persist, we are trying to promote their growth, education, rights, and integration into normal day-to-day life in their communities. Honestly, we’re not even angry at or resentful of Carol’s father. He saw no other option, considering the dishonor and humiliation he would face if he tried to raise his daughter normally. People with disabilities face much higher risk of abuse and violence, and it isn’t safe to leave them with just any caregiver. He was hopeless and knew of no other way to protect his daughter. Instead of being upset with Carol’s father, we are saddened and frustrated with the general mentality of society surrounding this topic.

Incredibly, just within the two weeks since meeting Carol, we have seen noticeable improvements in her behavior and demeanor. At first, she would sit with her head between her knees as she rocked back and forth in the corner. She avoided eye contact and seemed understandably distraught and anxious. However, on our most recent visit Carol began looking up at us and seemed more interactive. Although she is unable to speak or walk, we are prayerful and hopeful that she will continue to progress with our help and the care and support of her neighbors. We praise God for this family who is caring for her and making a difference in her life.

This past week, our friend Lauren, who recently moved to Uganda from Chicago, began accompanying Kari to Katanga on Fridays to help Carol. She is a social worker who is passionately gifted in trauma counseling. Trauma can often lead to the shutting down of the part of the brain that learns and utilizes language, and Lauren is eager to provide trauma therapy in the form of social and emotional care for Carol, in hopes that this will help her regain what little language she did have and greatly increase her vocabulary and speaking abilities in the future. During our last session, we noticed such great improvements. Carol had her head up, was making brief eye contact, and looked around around the entire time. She even began to smile, laugh, and verbalize. It’s amazing to see how God is working and bringing people together to care for His children.

Each Friday afternoon, Kari and Lauren will be co-treating with Carol. We are very excited for the potential ahead in terms of language, development, and—hopefully—greater acceptance and inclusion in her community. Please join us in praying for Carol and for the improvement of her circumstances, as well as praying for Kari and Lauren as they come up with a support plan. We know that God can do great things, and we are confident that His hand is on her life.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you, says the Lord, I will end your captivity and restore you. {Jeremiah 29:11-14}