You Cannot Turn Such Children Away

For these children, hearing aids are the highway to the world. But too, hearing aids are the property of the school. When children age out of the school, the school collects the hearing aids back from them.

Inside the school’s gate, the children could hear; outside, they cannot.

It’s a necessary reality, a reality borne of scarcity. There are too many children and too few hearing aids.

This is in Kenya.

But let me tell you how the situation is changing. A new school is opening, a school administered by our Sisters. It will be the only secondary school for deaf children in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

As I write, the buildings of this school are quiet and unoccupied. The roofs are without rust, the steps freshly painted, the stovepipes shiny. There are classrooms, latrines, dormitories and a convent – all empty but for the wind.

But how this will change!

As this message reaches you, 60 children, most unable to hear, will for the first time jostle through the dormitories and study in the classrooms. The hearing aids collected at the gates of the primary schools, the only schools for the deaf that have so far existed, will have been replaced with new ones. Sister Margaret Inziani will see to this. She is in charge, and is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.

Sister Margaret has worked with children who are deaf and children who are blind. She learned braille from a blind teacher. She learned sign language from a deaf one.

And as she was learning sign language, the children brought her books. “Go home for the weekend,” they said to her, “and read, read, read. Come Monday, we will teach you!”

Many of these children had nothing – except love.

Eventually, children who are blind will attend this new school, as will children with other disabilities. Importantly, children not having disabilities will also be admitted. They will assist the other students, such as in the dormitories and dining hall, and will through their presence break down that divide between the able-bodied and those more limited, to the point, says Sister Margaret, “that they will know one another as brothers and sisters.”

Until now, children with disabilities, when they left the primary schools, had three roads before them. They could stay with their parents who out of love and fidelity would care for them even as they themselves grew old. They could marry, still as children, if only to have a roof over their heads. Or they could live in beggary.

Then came this school run by our Sisters, a school that implores parents not to give up on their children. Their future, Sister Margaret tells the parents, can include vocational skills for self-support, academic skills for enlightenment, and even entrance to a university. “Bring them,” says Sister Margaret. “Don’t give up on them.”

Some families will be able to afford the school’s tuition, boarding fees, uniforms and books. But a good many will not. This is an area of great poverty, an area where most people live a hardscrabble life of tenant farming. The Sisters understand this. One way or another, they tell the parents, we will work it out.

And the Sisters do work it out, always, even when parents drop off their children never to return. Yes, this happens.

And it happens too that children come by themselves, often barefoot, having no place else.

“You cannot turn such children away,” says Sister Margaret.

People who are poor, people who are abandoned, people who are vulnerable – these are the people Saint Julie directs our Sisters to accompany. These are the people Jesus says are the least among us. Children who are destitute, and are deaf, and are blind, and who cannot walk, how can we not take them into our arms?

In this season of Lent, please help as you can.

With you, we change lives

With the support of generous friends like you, we are able to continue our mission of educating and taking a stand with those in poverty— especially women and children.

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