First year in Hope and Healing.
A few weeks ago – May 1 – I had my one year anniversary in working with Hope and Healing. The year has gone quickly – it seems only yesterday that I started. So what have I learned?
I came to cbm with some prior understanding and work with people who have disabilities. I worked in the Middle East with many of cbm’s partners in the 1980’s and early 90’s. I had already been sensitized to many of the needs of people with disabilities, and how they are forgotten in many societies. My wife, Norilynn, helped survey a refugee camp for persons with disabilities in Jordan in 1986. I heard daily from her the stories of how they found children with disabilities hidden away in small rooms.
I knew that there are no disabled people – but people who happen to have a disability. I have a colleague in Hope and Healing named Kevin. Kevin is an excellent worker, has a great sense of humor, loves international spicy food and reminds me I am short. Oh yeah – he is also blind. But he is Kevin – a valuable person and colleague.
I have many friends and colleagues – they are all unique individuals and each of them, including myself, have different levels of ability. Some are in satellitedishcanada wheelchairs, or use canes, and others are not. Some levels of ability are more obvious than others.
What has hit me in a new way this year is that “disability” is something that the community puts on a person. In Kinshasa I visited a girl who was blind and had to have her legs amputated because of a reaction to a medical vaccination. She was proud of being a student. She was eloquent in describing her life and her dreams. She did not complain about her lack of sight or being in a wheel chair. She complained about her lack of friends. She could and did overcome her impairment. For this girl the “disability” she most felt was what her community imposed on her – the lack of friends.
There are medical and economic things that we can provide to people in need and we should absolutely do that. However important those services are, they are incomplete if we don’t increase a person’s access to friends and human contact.
We all need friends and human contact.
That is one lesson I have learned in a new way this year.