Local Non-Profit: Empowering Communities Across Borders
Small Solutions Big Ideas and Rise Kenyan Youth
The rewards of the work of a small dedicated team of justice-conscious citizens of Newburyport visiting a community on the other side of the globe translates to a flood of hope.
For years Small Solutions, a Newburyport-based non-profit, has been transporting computers, educational supplies, clothes, and most recently durable medical equipmentto a rural agricultural community in Kenya.
Last summer, Small Solutions Big Ideas led it's annual Service and Safari Trip - a curated travel adventure that combines a residence/immersion in a rural farming community and a week of safari in Kenya’s wildlife parks. The 2023 Service Team traveled in July to Bungoma County in the west near the border with Uganda and spent time in the local schools in the rural village of Bukhokholo. Under the leadership of biologist Julie Menin, who was joined by a social worker, technologists, and young people embarking on their own science careers, the team worked closely with Kenyan students, teachers, and colleagues to talk about models of science education.
One member of the Service Team, Pam Wool, an occupational therapist by background, spent her days visiting members of the community with disabilities. She accompanied the leader of the local disability self-help group, called Mwangaza, on a tour to visit children and adults with disabilities in their homes. Our group was stunned to learn of the multiple and profound barriers faced by this community to accesslocal services, schools, and medical care.
After returning to Newburyport Pam organized the equipment that Small Solutions had been gathering from the Newburyport Senior Center and the Masonic Lodge in Ipswich. Local shippers who were willing to send the equipment. The impact was explosive. The Small Solutions program director in Kenya with the leader of Mwaganza, used funds raised for this project to bring two physical therapists and a nurse to the village to assess, fit, and train individuals to use the walkers, wheelchairs, and other adaptive equipment. For most, it was the first time they had seen a medical professional concerning their disability. The event was attended by local dignitaries.
The directors of Rise Kenya Youth and Mwaganza also organized, with our funding support, a group of 22 children/caretakers to attend a mobile health clinic. Caregivers were provided initial training on their children’s disabilities, and the mobile clinic will assist with making medical referrals, including to a local mission hospital, called Dreamland. Dreamland provides free care to children and we have great hopes about accessing their care for the first time.
Our focus is to support Rise Kenya Youth and Mwagamza to access the information and resources needed for these children to go to school . Last week, they organized a key event: the education assessor evaluated ten children for school. One a ten-year-old boy (pictured above) has been equipped with a pediatric wheelchair and is now attending school for the very first time. Funds are being raised to enable four others to attend the same school.
Very few children with disabilities are in school because of stigma and other obstacles. They have often been kept hidden, unschooled, and subject to the perception that not only do they have few capabilities, but that their disability is related to something evil.