Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mentally & Physically Challenged Orphan, MACODEF, Western Kenya, February, 2007

The people tell me that this is his only shirt, as is the case with the two dozen or so children in this small orphanage. We arrive early this morning before the children wake, many of them sleeping almost naked in their simple beds.

The simple building is located on the outskirts of a government school where the other children from the area attend classes. The orphans in this small building however will never attend classes on even this simple campus. For them to even receive the minimum care in the orphanage, their families needed to be convinced.

The reality is that before the orphanage these children were hidden from Society, some locked in rooms while others chained and restrained. There is a stigma involved with their physical and mental condition, as perhaps in many other parts of the world. In their present home, they sleep peacefully and are attended to by kind and gentle spirits.

Another fact is shared with me by the people in the orphanage: many of these children are anything but orphans. They do have families but their families have chosen to place them in the orphanage for various reasons, ranging from shame to inability to maintain proper care.

So we arrive this morning and see the children get ready for their photographic session with speed and excitement. The sight of children moving quickly in the shadows of the building gives me an immense sense of honor, of humility. Here are children facing daily hardships that most in the world will never glimpse. Yet they get up this morning and give of themselves without asking for anything in return.

The children from the neighboring school gather on the fence and watch with genuine curiosity. Like the children in the orphanage, they face an extreme life regardless of their mental and physical abilities. They stand in silence and lend their support to their brothers and sisters being photographed, until they are called in by their headmaster.

We photograph for perhaps one hour, against the back wall of the building. The caretakers handle the children with gentle hands, guide them to the camera and allow the children to make their own expressions, to claim their own identity. The young man in the portraits above does just that, without guidance from anyone. He stands his ground and tells his story.

One may view more regarding the foundation doing good works on behalf of the children below.


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