Supporting schools for Albino, blind and visually impaired students

Inverness County Cares (ICC) was founded in 2012 to address the needs of a disadvantaged school in Nairobi, Kenya.

Throughout our journey with this school, ICC has worked to help them acquire agricultural skills, with the aim of providing a means to develop sustainable garden practices and self-reliance.

In 2015 ICC began a three-year partnership with Chalice, an aid organization based in Bedford Nova Scotia. Through the combined efforts of our two associations, ICC was able to provide the school with a foundation on which the school is now able to continue to grow and move ahead independently. With the wrap up of this project in 2018, ICC has been researching to find a new project on which to focus our energies.

In July, Inverness County Cares members met to choose a new Chalice partnership project. A consensus was reached to support the St. Odilia and St Mary Schools for Albino, blind and visually impaired children in Zambia.

Contributed photos — Pictured are some of the students being helped by Inverness County Cares.

Albinism is a genetic condition that results in the absence of melanin, a pigment that is responsible for giving colour to the eyes, skin and hair. This lack of melanin means that people living with albinism are more susceptible to specific health conditions.

According to the Albino Foundation of Zambia, a great challenge facing more than 25,000 Zambians with albinism is over-exposure to sunlight, which has led to an increase in skin-cancer cases, especially in rural areas. Sunscreen, hats, corrective and dark glasses, long sleeved cotton shirts/dresses and umbrellas are desperately needed to protect them from the sun.

Persons with albinism also have personal safety concerns, stemming from social prejudice driven by harmful traditional beliefs, and connected to the trafficking of human body parts near the shared border with the Republic of Tanzania. Deprose Muchena, a spokesman for Amnesty International, said deep-seated cultural traditions persist, including a belief in mythical powers of people with albinism and a conviction that their body parts could change lives, bringing fabulous wealth, power or good fortune. Some believe that albinos are not human, and their only value is monetary and that they have gold in their bones.

These two schools are situated in Northern Zambia, an area bordering on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania where these unsubstantiated cultural beliefs threaten the safety and well-being of albinos.

The sisters of the Child Jesus, a local Zambian congregation, who are dedicated to protecting and educating these children, run the schools.

ICC looks forward to learning more about the school and providing support to these needy children.