Six-year-old David loves it when he gets a visit from Sylvie. She’s a community health worker in rural Rwanda, where David lives with his mum Therese. And when she visits, David gets a new opportunity to play and learn.
David’s future was at risk as soon as he was born. He has severe physical and learning disabilities and growing up in rural Rwanda meant his chances of a bright future were slim.
Here, the shame and stigma of having a child with a disability mean that parents often hide their children away. One mother, Keza, described how she “had a problem because I gave birth to a disabled child.” She didn’t know that he needed the same opportunities and support as any other child. “I didn’t know about my child’s rights and how to treat him well. Or to allow him to play with others. I didn’t have a good relationship with him.”
David’s story was similar. Despite Therese’s best intentions, she didn’t know how to look after him. In rural Rwanda, children like David face devastating prejudice. The attitudes are not born from cruelty, but a simple lack of education. Traditional beliefs and stereotypes fill this void, with very harmful consequences.
The pandemic has shown how damaging it is for children to be stuck inside all day. But for thousands of children like David, this is their reality. Trapped at home because they have a disability. David doesn’t have access to books or toys, and he can’t communicate with his family.
Whilst other children his age were learning numbers and letters, David was isolated from society. He didn’t play at all, either by himself or with other children. He was never happy, with poor physical and mental health. And worse still, without this vital contact, David’s brain was not developing properly. He wasn’t hitting any development milestones, with grave consequences for his future.
With stunted development, David was ten times more susceptible to diseases. His health is constantly at risk. And without urgent intervention, even when he grows up, he’ll likely experience poor health and die younger than his peers.
We can’t let David’s future slip away like this.
So this is where Sylvie comes in. With your support, she and an incredible team of community health workers visit families of children with disabilities in their homes. They’re there to support parents to look after their children. Sylvie would show Therese how to start communicating with David and activities she can do with him. David has the chance to play with new toys which stimulate his curiosity to ensure his brain develops.
Our approach to early childhood development
With your vital support, David is getting the stimulation and support he needs. With the opportunity to play and learn, Therese has noticed how much happier he is. And now that she can communicate with him, their bond has grown even stronger.
He is no longer hidden away from society, and Therese has become a huge advocate for David and other children with disabilities. She’s joined our parent support groups, where parents come together to share experiences and fight for the rights of their children with disabilities.
We fight for children to thrive, not just survive
What happens in our first 1,000 days can write the script for the rest of our lives. Without your urgent support, David may never have got the care he needed to thrive and have a happy childhood.
But there are thousands more children like David, who need your support. So next Wednesday, we’re launching a vital crowdfunder to give thousands of young children the best beginning possible at such a crucial stage in their lives. Will you please help to shape their futures?