After one day of sunshine and warmth on Wednesday, the heavens opened again that night and it rained all yesterday. Mid-afternoon I took a photo of the sky (an abnormally pale greyish-blue for Africa) through the big trees in my garden.
Pale African skies seen through the trees in my garden
On Thursday morning Amanda picked me up at home; we were on our way to visit the grandson of Janet, one of the hospital Admin clerks. The little boy, Baraka, was five years old and blind since birth. Amanda had made a soft felt ball and another square box-like touchy-feely object, covered in felt and with buttons, ribbons and gathered bias-binding glued onto it.
*Note: between me and Amanda we keep all items that can be recycled to make toys for the local children: face-cream tubs, tube lids which make perfect wheels for cars, old ball-point pens which she uses as car axles, ointment tins and more.
Once we'd collected the Janet at work, she directed us to her home. It's quite normal when you arrive at an African house to find several people there: the dada who cleans, does the laundry and looks after the children. Then her brother may be there and his friend whose younger cousin has accompanied him. The dada's boyfriend's mother may also be visiting while she's left her elderly father to wait for her in the garden.
This household was no exception. As is also normal, the television was set on ultra-loud volume with Swahili pop songs belting out across this room. Amanda and I waited in the lounge while the granny dispatched dada to fetch the child from a neighbor's house.
The housemaid returned carrying the child on her hip and put him down in front of Amanda. He immediately grabbed Amanda's hand, pumped it up and down and shouted "jambo" (hello) at the top of his little voice. The rest of the household members had come into the lounge and were sitting around watching. At this action, they all burst out laughing. This seemed to be a cue for this little boy to pull himself up onto Amanda's lap, creep over her shoulder and perch on her back. Now he wass shouting "beba" which means "piggy-back".
Eventually Amanda managed to get him off her back and placed him on the floor in front of her. She told him that she had a "zawadi"/gift for him. When she put the soft ball in his hand, he shook it frantically and threw it over his shoulder. More laughter from the invisible-to-him audience in the lounge. Then Amanda and I spoke softly to him and told him to shake the square box and listen to the sounds. He did shake the box and then it slid from his hands while he twisted his little body to face her again and climbed onto her lap. His attention-span is virtually zero.
Little Baraka lurches forward to grab Amanda's hand!
While Amanda spoke to the grandmother, telling her that the child needs attention, I turned to a young man sitting on my left. He spoke very good English and said he was the dada's brother (what did I tell you?) and a regular in the house. I suggested that if he wanted to help the little boy, the first thing that he should do was to turn down (preferably turn off ) the the television. Then he could sit and teach the child to count, describes colors and sights to him and perhaps even sing to him. He was most intrigued by my suggestions and I only hope he gives them a try.
Amanda managed to get Baraka to sit on her lap for a couple o seconds before he tried to creep around and onto her back again. Granny Janet looks on
Earlier on Amanda had spoken to Linda, the American missionary who does counseling amongst the pupils of the Lutheran-run school in town while her husband teaches there. Linda has agreed to visit this little boy with us on Tuesday and work with him. She has a very good command of the Swahili language and I believe she will be instrumental in creating a sense of normalcy for little Baraka.
Amanda has an old computer keyboard which Linda says she can use in her efforts to help the little boy; together Amanda and I are going to buy a mouth-organ (no drum or trumpet for this hyperactive little lad!) and a small disc-man with nursery rhymes and songs on CD's. Linda can teach the various carers/helpers in the home to operate the CD player for the little guy.Amanda tried to interest Baraka in the toy she'd made to help stimulate his interest through touch and sound
When it was time to leave, Baraka clung to Amanda and wouldn't let go. She has the most incredible manner with children; I' ve seen it with the young patients we visit in the hospital or the children we see on the road when we stop to hand out lollypops. They already know Amanda and her car. (and that she dishes out sweets and toys). But this child had obviously never seen Amanda yet he took to her completely; even though I reached for his hand, he ignored me totally and turned his sightless eyes on her and that was that! Now the dada took him from Amanda and we left the house. As we got into the car, we saw people walking briskly from several directions towards Janet's house. They'd heard via bush-telegraph that two Mzungus were visiting her blind grandson.
On the way home, I mentioned to Amanda that unfortunately this poor child's affliction is regarded as a handicap and an oddity by all who know him. Only Janet seems to think there's hope for her grandson. And while little Baraka has been greatly challenged in his young life so far, we both agreed that there is nothing wrong with his mental ability. In a first world country, though, he'd probably be diagnosed with ADHD. But with his environment and situation as it is, filled with half-a-dozen mostly strangers all day, and continuous noise from these people and from a source (television) which he has never even seen, so cannot picture it, one can only imagine the turmoil and confusion in that young mind.
I ask readers and followers of this blog to pray for Baraka and think good thoughts of this little boy. Not for any other reason than that with co-operation between Mzungus helping this child and his carers, he may eventually have as normal a life as possible.
I wish you all a wonderful weekend ahead.
I am linking my post to Skywatch Friday here