Living in poverty is hard enough. But living with a disability compounds the challenges for children in the poorest parts of the world. A little help, prayer and support can transform their experience.Â
To markÂ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, you can hear the voices of these children as they share their struggles, their hopes and their determination to live life to the full. If their stories inspire you and youâd like to play a positive role in another childâs life, you might like to consider sponsoring a child with an additional need.
Karunia is unique.
Sheâs confident, bubbly with a fierce sense of humour. This extroverted 6-year-old loves to sing and dreams of recording her own album.
Karunia also has Apert syndrome, a genetic condition affecting the skull bones and hands.
In the remote Bongkudai village, North Sulawesi,Â Indonesia, thereâs little help and support for children born with any form of disability.
When she was born, Karuniaâs own father tried to hide her condition. Locally there was misunderstanding and fear. Her parents, Candra and Angel, found it incredibly painful when local children would run away afraid from their baby girl.
From the start, our local church partner was committed to supporting the family and educating the wider community about Karuniaâs worth. Angel and Karunia were enrolled in a CompassionÂ Child Survival projectÂ where Angel was given parenting classes. Through home visits and activities, Angel and Candra began to feel supported and hopeful for their daughterâs future.
In 2015, Karunia graduated to theÂ Child Development Sponsorship Programme and she continues to thrive. âI love to play with my friends at school and at the project,â she says.
Thanks to the support of her sponsor and ourÂ RESPONDÂ interventions, Karunia will be able to undergo a further operation on her left hand later this year.
When you meet Karunia, you can see the fruit of the years of Compassion project lessons teaching self-confidence and the value God places onÂ her. She clearly knows that she is a precious creation.
Her self-assured words speak for themselves: âWhen my friends mocked me because I donât have normal fingers, my mum taught me to say back to them that this is what Jesus gave me,â Karunia says.
18-year-old Yona has had to fight for his life. Discrimination and misconceptions about his albinism make him vulnerable to attack. The hereditary condition which results in a lack of pigmentation in skin, hair, and eyes, affects 1 in 1,400 people inÂ Tanzania.
Over the last 10 years, 173 attacks on people with the condition have been recorded in Tanzania, the world capital for attacks on people with albinism. Survivors of such attacks are left deeply traumatised and sometimes severely mutilated.
The killings are believed to be motivated by superstition and myth. Traditional healers and witch doctors in sub-Saharan African countries promote the belief that people with albinism possess magical properties and bring good luck and fortune. Body parts can be sold for thousands of dollars on the black market.
Those living with albinism are in constant fear that they could be next.
Things changed for Yona when he wasÂ registered with Compassion and found a caring sponsor. The project provided an environment of love, care and protection, which allowed his confidence and trust in people to grow.
For the first time, he could put on a uniform and go to school.
Before I joined Compassion I had not enrolled in any school. My parents could not afford to send all of us to school at the same time because of school fees. If there was a need for one child to wait, I was always the victim.
Yonaâs hard work at school has paid off and earnt him good results in his national examinations. From a young boy without hope of an education due to poverty and stigmatism, Yona is now one of the highest performing students in his school. With his results Yona is optimistic he can achieve his dream.
âFrom the very beginning when I started secondary school education, I fell in love with science subjects. My plans were and are still the same, to study up to university level and become a chemical engineer,â beams Yona.
âMy sponsor has stood by me from the beginning. He has been sending encouraging words about the future and about my dream,â Yona says. âHis support to me is invaluable. I still need his prayers and support to achieve my dream.â
Baby Alexis was small and anaemic, slow to crawl and walk. As a toddler, he couldnât stop crying when he tripped up in the house.
Panicking, his parents took him to hospital. Doctors discovered he had broken his arm in the minor fall. Tests revealed Alexis had a rare genetic disorder known as âbrittle bone syndromeâ.Â
âIt was very hard for me. I saw him so little, so fragile, and suffering so much,â says his mother, MĂłnica. âMy heart broke every time I saw him. I never thought something like that could happen to us. âWhy us?â I wondered over and over again. I was heartbroken.â
Alexis found hope when he joined the Compassion programmeÂ run by his local church. Thanks to project funds, he had surgery to treat some of his bones.
Alexis also experienced Godâs love through his sponsors, the Baker Family. When the Bakers found out about Alexisâ situation, they started a relationship full of love and spiritual and economic support.
âMy sponsors are like a second family to me,â says Alexis, now 16. âEvery time I receive a letter, card or gift from them, my heart lights up. They always remind me how important I am to God and to them.â
You can empower a child like Alexis to overcome the challenges poverty and disability place in their path. Meet the children waiting for a sponsor today.Â
Sponsor a child with an additional need
Fourteen years ago, Ariane could see. She wasnât born blind, but at age 4, she was found to have acute leukemia.
Immediately, Arianeâs Compassion worker sought help from medical experts. The doctors said Ariane needed to undergo three years of chemotherapy to stay alive, and so began the long process of healing that would, after several years, leave Ariane blind.
The doctors couldnât offer any explanation. They simply told Arianeâs mother and Compassion child development worker that chemotherapy often does leave a permanent side effect, and thereâs no way to predict what it could be. It all depends on how a patient reacts to the treatment.
Ariane remembers what it was like.
I was so afraid when I began losing my sight. Things were fading to black, and soon I began bumping into things and hurting myself.
The young lady struggled with her new life in darkness. It wasnât easy. She was enrolled in a special school for children and teenagers with disabilities, thanks to help from Compassion. Her teacher understood just how difficult it was for a seeing person to become blind suddenly.
Ariane missed seeing things. She explains, âIf given a chance to see again, I would like to see my family, the world.â
She felt sad, angry, and defeated â but slowly, she became more comfortable in theÂ new school.
Ariane had a teacher who knew how toÂ support children with additional needs, and she had new friends who were in a similar situation.
She slowly eased into her new life and was determined to figure out her purpose. She joined the schoolâs athletics programme and represented her class in several running and long-jump competitions.
Ariane won a silver medal in long jump and competed in regional games that allowed her to travel to other cities and provinces. Ariane and her family are thankful to her sponsors, William and Donna Stacia.
âMy sponsor gave me my most important possessions,â Ariane says, âa tablet with a talk-back function and rubber shoes for running and long-jump.â
Her mother couldnât be more grateful.
Marivic adds, âMy daughterâs sponsors helped pay for the chemotherapy and medicines. They have sent gifts through the years. Most of all I am thankful for their spiritual help. Our family knew they were praying when Ariane was sick.â