Chained up or left to die: Disabled children in East Africa

By February 24, 2020
child, africa

WARNING: This story has graphic elements.

East Africa (MNN) — In East Africa, children with disabilities or mental health conditions are often severely mistreated. Parents don’t always know what to do with their disabled kids and even see them as curses or bad omens. So these children are often locked away or chained up. They are malnourished, abused, and cut off from the rest of society.

Dean VanderMey with Set Free Ministries says sometimes these disabled children are cast out and left to die, even as infants.

“They actually put them in the jungle and they let the wild dogs come and eat them at times. So it’s even worse than you might think. Sometimes they’re not just chained to a pole.”

Set Free has been working in East Africa since 2005. They were first invited to Uganda, then expanded to other countries in the region.

VanderMey says it was heartbreaking to see children who were cast out by their families. They knew they had to respond as a ministry.

Robert, before his surgeries. (Photo courtesy of Set Free Ministries)

Today, Set Free has founded or supported 17 Christian schools in Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan. Students of all abilities are welcome to attend the schools and are shown Christ’s love. Set Free also supports En-Gedi Children’s Home in Kenya for disabled children.

VanderMey shares one story about a boy named Robert. When he was around three or four-years-old, Robert suffered severe abuse that left both of his legs broken and twisted.

“His feet were actually pointing backward. He was thrown along the roadside and left for dead,” VanderMey says. “A local family saw him…and they picked him up.

“We invited him to come to one of our schools even though he was severely handicapped. And not only that, but…we had some donors wanting to help repair his legs. So he went through four very extensive surgeries.”

Robert ran to greet VanderMey during a recent visit.
(Photo courtesy of Set Free Ministries)

VanderMey says, “Today, Robert can run, he can walk, and he’s the top student in his class. He’s valedictorian, and he’s a bright young man.”

All 2,000 students in Set Free’s schools will go through vocational training of some kind, such as accounting, farming, motorcycle repair, sewing, or cosmetology. By the time they graduate, each student will be ready to attend university or join the workforce.

But most importantly, each student hears about Jesus’s love for them — no matter what they have suffered in life.

“We’re seeing a lot of children who have been loved to life. Love covers over a multitude of sins.”

You can show Christ’s love to disabled and discarded children in East Africa through Set Free Ministries! Click here to support Set Free.

VanderMey also asks for prayer as their team travels to and from East Africa. “Prayer is obviously what this whole ministry is bathed in. So pray for safe travel and for health. The last time I was there, I got malaria twice. When I came home, I nearly died. So pray for health, pray for safety, and then pray that God would be glorified through the stories through the witnesses.”



Header photo courtesy of Noam Jordan via Unsplash.

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