Blessings is a nine-year-old boy, who although living with Albinism, is full of life and has the potential to do great things.
At the age of three, his parents separated and Blessings’ mother moved away, leaving him with his father. At his young age, he realized that his home is not a happy one mainly because two of the children live with Albinism.
Blessings says, “I can tell that the face of my father is ever sad, I wonder if my father ever smiles and my mother stays in another village with my stepfather.” Blessings older brother, Albert, was taken away when he was young and did not know until later, that his parents had another boy with albinism.
Blessings has been shunned by his village and his interactions with anyone outside of his family has been restricted. Sometimes, he would be permitted to go to a neighbouring house to play with young friends. They enjoyed traditional dances and games.
One of these friends was, Jane, who is the same age as Blessings, and was in Grade 1 at that time. She taught him the alphabet and some songs. Some of the elders in the community noticed his potential since was able to quickly remember the alphabet, songs and stories.
At this time, he lived with his father and step mother, where according to Blessings, “No age was considered when it comes to work.” Blessings despite his young age and small stature, was expected to do the work of a much older person and was continually overworked and exhausted. His work schedule, “which was beyond my power,” fetching water with a big bucket, weeding and slashing brush, left him so fatigued, he was unable to attend school or even study on his own.
As a child living with Albinism, working in the hot sun is life threatening. Blessings tells us “Honest, I really suffered when drawing water from the only borehole we have in the village. It is in an open space where sunlight shines directly on us as we wait our turn.”
For anyone with albinism, the direct rays of the hot sun can lead to skin cancer lesions because of the lack of melanin on their skin. Blessings did not have access to sunscreen or protective clothing to shield him from the sun every day. The only way he could cope was to, “cover my head with a piece of cloth or my old shirt.” From photos of Blessings, we can see he is already developing lesions in areas exposed to the sun.
According to Blessings, “One day a miracle happened in our home. A teacher gave homework to my step brother who was in Grade 2. He could not get the concept, but I got it and everyone was surprised.” His family began to realize his potential, and this coincided with the visit from Mr. Simeo, who is pursuing his studies in education, with a focus on children with disabilities.
Simeo took a special interest in Blessings for he saw the potential in this overworked little boy. According to Blessings, his friend said, “From today I will accompany you in everything, and again he lifted me and laughed. Inside my heart I was very happy because I wanted to see a man in the range of my father’s age with a smile on his face.”
From then on, he visited Blessings’ family and helped him in the fetching of water and other strenuous work. Blessings’ parents came to love his friend so much that he become part of the family. Due to this influence, his parents permitted Blessings to go to school with his friend where he started teaching him simple mathematics. Simeo talked to Blessings’ father about taking him to a special school that could really enrich Blessings’ life and his father permitted Blessings to go to St Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa, which is 178 kilometres away from their home. There he found so much comfort with his loving and caring friends, teachers and care givers, some of whom also live with albinism. He started learning Braille, and was happy to study and work toward his educational goals.
His teacher, Madam Winifridah, introduced him to computers which has ignited his curiosity toward technology and mechanical operations. His potential has been recognized, and at this time, he can read, write, recite poems and dance. He is a dependable student who realizes the importance of education as a path toward his ambitions.
There are many more children in a similar situation as Blessings, but they are hidden away in villages, shunned by their people because of fear and superstition. St. Mary’s and St Odilia schools, the two schools of the Kawambwa Project, provide a haven for these children, where they can learn to cope with their disabilities and feel safe, valued and protected.
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