Friday, March 9, 2007

And now....A word from our Sponsor

I am very impressed with the organization that I am working for. Its called The Association for the Physically Disable of Kenya (APDK) was created in 1958 and operates eight branches throughout Kenya. I work for the Coastal branch. They operate the Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Center (who Cindy works for), Likoni Quality Furniture (in the town of Likoni just south of Mombasa), The Mobility Workshop (here at Bombolulu) and the APDK Rehabilitation Clinic near the airport.

The clinic was originally established in 1964 to rehabilitate children with Polio and was taken over by APDK in ’71. As the incidence of Polio diminished, they now address other types of physical and neurological disabilities. Most of the people who work here at Bombolulu have been through the clinic.

It’s an amazing center with a mobile force that reaches far to the north, south and west. The clinic is free to all that come there. They are mostly children. The average stay is about 2 years. Many of the children require some sort of surgery to correct physical disabilities like bow legs, club feet, and a neurological problem called Hydrocephalus (it’s a swelling of the brain in children that they think is caused by Malaria). They will do as many surgeries as necessary to fix the problems. We were shown one 8 year old child who was in the process of having bowed legs fixed. They fix one leg at a time and make the patient stay in bed for 6 weeks while the bones heal. Honestly I don’t know how these kids do it. I can’t imagine an 8 year old sitting still all day every day for that long a time. After intensive Physiotherapy (another great department in the compound) they will walk as good as new. There is a also a great school on the grounds because they don’t want the children to get behind while they are recuperating.

They have an in-house fabrication department that makes orthopedic appliances (think of things like specialized crutches, or customized shoes for people with club feet or with one leg shorter than the other because of polio) and prosthetics. The shop can’t keep up with demand. They made all of the prosthetics and appliances that I see people wearing here in Bombolulu, all of the pieces for the patients at the clinic, and have a backlog of pieces to make for the mobile force. The mobile division sends in measurements or plaster casting from the field and a month later the units are ready. Amazingly it’s all done by about 4 people. I was in awe of the place.

(Writers aside: I just spotted another cricket that came in from under the door. It beelined to where my shoes are usually kept. I was smart tonight and put them up on a chair. I think the word has spread among the cricket population that the effervescence from my footwear is not to be missed and they are all coming inside to experience it first hand. I hope the ants attack and kill it tonight. I have made an uneasy truce with the ants. They can live here as long as they clean up only the food crumbs left of the floor and devour the occasional wayward cricket. We are still in negotiations about their excursions to the food in our cupboards.)

The Field workers also do a lot of training of the family’s of the handicapped person. The clinic feels that it is part of their job help the recipient have a better life wherever they live and that they should raise community awareness wherever they go. In Kenya, disabled persons can be treated like they are lepers. I heard a story from a VSO physical therapist about a patient of theirs who was kept in a shed out back by her parents.

Because the clinic is free, many parents leave their children there and expect to wash their hands of them. Sometimes a false address will be given and the clinic has to try to track the parents down once the child has recovered. Often the patients leave with no trace of the disability they had when they arrived. The patients are then returned to their frequently disbelieving families to hopefully lead a normal and productive life. If the parents cannot be found, the children stay on the compound until foster or adoptive parents can be found. When I asked about what happens to the children who don’t get adopted, I was just given the vague answer that they keep trying even though sometimes it can be difficult.

They do so much here with so little.

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