Life in Zambian rural villages is tough for most children, but if you have learning or physical difficulties it can be incredibly hard. The Butterfly Tree has supported a programme for children with special needs since 2008. Our work was praised by HRH Princess Royal after selecting this as one of the areas she wanted to see when she visited the charity in 2012.
Before our involvement there was no support for these vulnerable children in rural villages. Families on low or no income were unable to send their children to boarding schools in townships so they had to remain at home. The Zambian government welcomed our input after we build a special education unit at Mukuni Village. With help from Fountaindale SE School in Nottinghamshire we subsequently received volunteers, educational materials and teacher’s training.
One of the first beneficiaries was Joseph, who has Cerebral Palsy. When I first met Joseph at the age of six he could not speak, had difficulty with balance and frequently fell over. He lived at home with his grandparents and was unable to attend school. The charity donated funds for Joseph to have physiotherapy – whithin a year the difference was remarkable, and in less than two years Joseph could run.
I then made a request to the special education teacher at Mukuni for Joseph to attend school just one day per week. He responded so well that the following week he attended every day. He had no use in his right arm. One day when I was visiting the class, Joseph started drawing on the blackboard, using his right hand. The stimulation from being at school really helped him progress. Now, at the age of 10, Joseph can string words together and actively engages with other children, even playing football!
Following this success we built three more units for Katapazi, Simango and River View Schools in the Chiefdoms of Mukuni, Musokotwane and River View Schools, respectively. A recent donation from Lasswade Primary School will provide much needed materials for children with special needs. One of the school’s teachers is raising funds for a further unit to be added to Kauwe Junior Secondary School.
We have helped many more children like Joseph, but as always, more funds are needed to reach out to these underprivileged children with special needs.