16 November 2017

Rwanda: How One Woman Chose to Be the Eyes of Visually Impaired Children

interview

Vanessa Bahati's last born son was born with visual impairment. After visiting several hospitals in Europe and locally, the results were negative. The reality that her son would never be able to see propelled her to begin her charity organisation 'Jordan Foundation' which was named after her son.

The foundation is now home to other visually impaired children. The mother of four had a chat with Women Today's Sharon Kantengwa on how the organisation has changed the lives of visually impaired children.

Tell us about Jordan Foundation

Jordan Foundation is a local NGO that was founded in 2015 after my last born Jordan was born blind. With time, I realised the problems that children in Jordan's situation go through and I was propelled to help other visually impaired children from poor families. We currently have 21 children between two and eight years of age with visual impairments that we take care of from different parts of the country. They have caretakers and a teacher who gives them basic education.

How can you say this foundation has changed the lives of the children?

When I founded this NGO, I realised that schools for the visually impaired children within the age range in this country were not there. The ones available are for the ones who are a bit older and tend to be expensive for some families. This means that parents with young children that are visually impaired had to take them to other countries, which could be inconveniencing for the young ones and also expensive.

Jordan Foundation provides special health assistance and treatment for the children, fights malnutrition for those coming from poor families and gives basic education, psycho-social support, community integration and social economic empowerment to their families. We partner with 'Rwanda Union of the Blind' to provide us with resources to take care of the children.

How do you gather these children under your care?

We partner with district and sector levels that identify the visually impaired in their communities. We meet with their families, identify their needs and take the children to our premises in Gatsata, Kigali. Parents can come to visit their children and we also take the children to visit their homes for some weeks.

What are some of the challenges that you face?

We do not have enough materials to use and so the kids only study to memorise. We cannot take in many children yet because of the limited resources and also the specialists to take care of the special needs of these children are scarce in this country. We train the teachers and the matron on how they can handle the children. We also have a problem of stigmatisation among the children whose parents and the societies that they live in feel like they are burden to them. We are educating the parents to take full responsibility of the children and check on them.

What are your future plans for the organisation?

I want to have a school in the future where I can take in many young visually impaired children because I believe that there are many out there who are unfortunate and are marginalised in society. I strongly believe in the right of these children to attain good education just like the rest.

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