Here is a story from a recent Kenya trip participant, Jaime….
While many community members from Karogoto were showing us Americans how to demolish a building before lunch, I saw a man sitting by himself a little ways away from everyone else. I went over to talk to him and noticed right away there was something physically different about him, but I didn’t know at the time exactly what it was. As I tried to strike up a conversation with him it became quite evident that he only spoke Kikuyu. Well, past greeting a person, my Kikuyu is very limited. So I went and got our Kenyan guide, Judy. She bridged the language barrier gap for our conversation. He told me a little bit about himself such as: His name is Ben, he attends Pastor David’s church, he lives with his cousin, and he is legally blind.
That last bit of information he shared with me, God really used to grip my heart. At school last semester I did some research on how people with disabilities in developing communities are often left behind in the developmental process. This is not intentional, but if there is not a plan intentionally in place then the result for a person with a disability is exclusion, not inclusion during this process.
As I watched other members of the community and members from our team move the stones from the almost demolished building I started wracking my brain about how I could get Ben involved in what everyone else was doing that day. I decided to grab one of the lighter stones to let Ben carry if he chose to do so. I threw the idea out to Judy and she took it one step further. She called over one of the more well-known, outgoing community members, Beatrice. She told Beatrice what we were talking about doing and why. It was Beatrice who went and got a stone for Ben. She gave him the stone and helped him navigate the path to the pile by holding his hand. It wasn’t the white American. It was one of his own people, from his community including him in the project and task they were trying to accomplish that day. Ben ended up moving 4 stones in total. On one of his treks to the pile he said in Kikuyu: “I am grateful today. I feel like I am part of my community and like everyone else. I feel like I am one of you.”
While I know it’s something as simple and small as moving stones I still think there were great lessons taken away from this. For Beatrice to help facilitate Ben’s participation shows her that he is one of them and a vital part of their community. For others around who were watching Beatrice and Ben it was a lesson for them that they are the ones responsible for including him in this process. It doesn’t have to be the white American to encourage him along; the people of Karogoto are more than capable of facilitating that. As for Ben, he learned that he has something to offer his community, that they value him, and that by no means are they going to leave him behind as their community continues to be transformed.