In my last story, I left off with fifteen month-old Queenie living in jail with her mother who has been sentenced to life in prison for killing her husband in a domestic dispute. Having formulated a plan of action with prison administration and Gilbert, our social welfare officer to get Queenie out of prison, we began a discussion about needs for Queenie with the prison doctor on our way out. As we approached our car, he asked if we could take a few moments to meet another child in serious need of support.
Let me introduce you to Ismael Jumanne, 3 years old. Ismael was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. His lower backbone extruded his body when he was born and the procedure to return it has left him paralyzed from the waist down. He is very charming, (greeted us upon our surprise visit and kissed me goodbye when we left), and it is obvious his mother, 27 year old Ashora is very attentive to his needs.
Upon meeting Ismael at birth and seeing his physical condition, Ismael’s father denied his parentage because, well, there are two other, healthy, “normal” children and so he decided that his wife must have slept with another man in order to produce such an anomaly. He rejected Ishmael and evicted both he and Mama Ismael from their home and from their family. Mama Ismael, without support of any kind, begged help from a relative and came to live in the prison staff quarters in Mwanga with her little boy.
Ismael is very bright. He is happy and seems to have adjusted (as best he can) to his physical condition. Even as little as he is, he lifts his legs, one at a time, repositioning them in order to allow himself a bit of a “shuffle” in one direction or another. He needs a wheelchair and we think we can get him one. He needs physio therapy and we think we can get that. He needs to go to school one day soon and we could help with that also with the right sponsor.
We have arranged for Ismael, along with Winnie (our 17 year old psychologically challenged rape victim) and another new child you will meet shortly to attend what I see to be a wonderfully special rehabilitation centre in Moshi called Gabriella Children’s Rehabilitation Centre (www.gabriellarehab.org) where the children, along with a caregiver, will attend for one week allowing doctors, psychologists and occupational therapists to meet and assess each child in order to assist in building them a life plan where they may develop their maximum independence. Winnie, with her Bibi, Ismael with his Mama and Neema (another story) and her mama will attend during the week of May 8th and we will report back after that