ECM cares for a high-risk population

By October 10, 2013

Africa (MNN) — While African orphans are getting a voice and a helping hand from Bethany Christian Services, children with albinism are receiving the same from Every Child Ministries.

Some albino children and their families receive teaching and practical helps at ECM's Uganda National Ministry Center. (Photo, caption courtesy ECM)

Some albino children and their families receive teaching and practical helps at ECM’s Uganda National Ministry Center. (Photo, caption courtesy ECM)

In Africa, albino children could be considered high-risk. Their organs are considered good luck, so they’re targeted by traffickers and witch doctors. Last month, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the challenges and restrictions faced by people with albinism worldwide.

The report reveals a link between the killing of people with albinism for ritual purposes and the sale of organs on the black market. In some cases, it’s linked to human trafficking and the sale of children.

Lorella Rouster of Every Child Ministries attributes violence toward people with albinism to ignorance.

“Because people do not really understand albinism, they tend to imagine reasons for it,” she explains.

The superstition surrounding albinism has different results in different regions of Africa. In some places, the wives are accused of cheating on their mate. In others, a child with albinism is viewed as a curse from the gods.

“Many times we find that fathers abandon the family when a child is born with albinism, even if things were ok in the family before,” adds Rouster.

Albino children commonly face challenges at school.

“Sometimes they’re ridiculed; almost always they’re avoided, as if they had a disease,” Rouster says.

But, albinism isn’t a disease, it’s a genetic condition. It occurs when children inherit conditions or certain recessive traits, resulting in a lack of pigment or melanin in the skin, hair and eyes.

There are kids with albinism in most of their ministry locations. ECM’s national staff reaches out to these kids with Christ’s love.

“It provides an opportunity to share the Gospel with the whole family of the child who has albinism, because usually no one else is reaching out to them,” says Rouster.

ECM also seeks to educate communities about albinism. They’ve been interviewed several times about the topic in Uganda.

“Now, one of the children who has that condition has been asked to be like, the co-host of a radio program [there],” notes Rouster.

With the same goal of raising awareness, ECM has developed training materials and resources for teachers, parents, peers and even some documents for albino children.

“It’s just very simple-level teaching about the condition that is presented from a Christian perspective,” Rouster says.

They’ve already heard back from teachers who found the materials extremely helpful.

Teachers told ECM “they had no idea what it was, they didn’t know how to meet [the needs of children with albinism], they didn’t know how to stop kids from ridiculing them.”

Another aspect of ECM’s ministry to children with albinism includes meeting their physical needs. Albino children are prone to poor eyesight, and the lack of pigment in their skin makes them extremely sensitive to light.

Rouster says this need was made obvious to them a few years ago. They were traveling to a ministry site in Uganda with a short-term team when they came across a young boy with albinism.

“He was holding his arm up over his eyes, I mean just continuously, walking around…and [one of the mission team members] said, ‘I wonder if my sunglasses could make that boy’s life any better?’,” Rouster recounts.

Their car pulled over, she says, and someone ran out to give those sunglasses to the boy. He put the sunglasses on and lowered his arms, and began walking around normally.

“When we saw that, we realized that giving sunglasses or giving some kind of practical help…could be a way of demonstrating God’s love to them in a very tangible way,” says Rouster.

ECM began training their staff in three different countries to observe the physical needs of children with albinism, and provide help in whatever way they could.

You can help them buy supplies like long-sleeve shirts, sunglasses and sunblock by clicking here.

Rouster explains, “We can buy those in Africa probably more effectively than sending them, if we just have the funds to do it.”

Help us spread the word of ECM’s work on Facebook.

“We’re also looking for volunteer translators who would put this material into other languages that are spoken in Africa,” adds Rouster.

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