One of our goals at CURE Zambia is to transform the community’s attitude toward people with disabilities. It is a tough challenge as their perception is deeply rooted in their past. Many of us in Zambia grew up in communities where we called disabled people all sorts of names, and to a large extent we saw their condition as something they brought upon themselves. Families with disabled children tried to hide them because they were ashamed of their disabled condition. Most of these children didn’t live long since they hardly received any medical care.
This is the past, which most of us are ashamed of, and which we do not want our children to repeat. However, there are still people who think of these conditions in old way and unfortunately we will not be able to win all of them over. Thus we focus mostly on creating a new culture for our children, as they have no former way of thinking to overcome. With this initiative in mind, we hosted two groups of children last week. The first group was from a local church and the second was a group of our staff members’ children.
The first group came with over one hundred children to interact with the children in the hospital ward. Their children’s ministry leadership joined hands with our kitchen staff to prepare meals for them and our patients. Then they had lunch together and played for the whole afternoon.
We achieved two things with that visit. First, the children freely interacted with and enjoyed the company of the kids in the ward, which is changing a cultural attitude toward the disabled. Theirs will be a generation that will see disabled individuals as fellow humans made in the image of God. Second, though these children were coming from one church background, they were able fellowship with children from different church background, meaning they have now gone above church divisions in order to reach out in love. What a great lesson to the Christian community, a community that is mostly divided on Sunday morning.
The second group was the group of staff members’ children who organized a Christmas party. We want our children to have a correct attitude toward the disabled and also be generous to the needy as people who have received much in terms of the gift of Christ. Our children did a great job in entertaining the fellow children in the ward. However, I think the greatest achievement is the fact that they will not inherit our mistake of looking down on the disabled. Instead, they will act as “salt and light” in our communities.
All in all, we will not be able to change our past mistakes but are able to change our future. Last week was a great time of investment in the future. As we say in Africa, “You control a small tree without breaking it, while it is too late to control a big tree.”