GIHOZO Rachel, 2 years 8 months
Rachel is the youngest child in the family. When she was born it was not immediately clear that she had a disability. By the age of five months her mother, Clenia, knew something was wrong. Shortly thereafter, Rachel was taken to the clinic where the family learned that Rachel was severely disabled and would be for the rest of her life. With help from Physiotherapy volunteers at Love With Actions (LWA), it was estimated that Rachel is living with Cerebral Palsy. This condition causes impaired motor control and is often accompanied by other limiting conditions. In Rachel’s case, her vision is impaired and she has hyper tonicity. After the diagnosis it was hard for Clenia and her family to understand how they could love Rachel the same as other normally abled children. Today, her husband (Bosco) and two older children continue to struggle with accepting Rachel’s condition. The older children claim that Rachel is “not their responsibility,” and they don’t care to help their mother with day-to-day chores and duties regarding Rachel. This behavior is not common in a Rwandan household, as the older children are expected to begin looking after the younger siblings often from the age of seven and younger. Too often Clenia experiences discrimination, harsh words, and actions at home. Her husband and children do not support her or give her the same love as they once did. Despite these negative feelings at home, Clenia tries her best to make a happy life for her little girl. Rachel is a peaceful happy and loves to play,“dancing” and “jumping” on her mother’s lap which always excites smiles and laughs.
Clenia is unable to work because caring for a disabled child is a full-time job. This causes her to depend on her emotionally abusive husband for support. Income generating programs at LWA are proving extremely important for this family and others like hers. These programs give Clenia the opportunity to become more independent of her oppressive husband. After meeting LWA, Clenia reports that she has a better understanding of her daughter’s disease. Today, Clenia feels more confident than before to unapologetically love her disabled child. She shares, “God gave me a child like this, but I love her so much.”