We are the Stow Family and this is our story. Our lives are blessed by Love, Joy and Hope. Follow our sometimes interesting stories on loving our two boys, exploring parenthood, and celebrating a little extra - two parents, two boys and an extra chromosome!

Friday, April 9, 2010

We will not stop...

I recently wrote an article about the Special Olympics, and as usual, as I researched the content, I came across things that I never knew. Things that made me pause and think for a moment.

The Special Olympics Africa website is so inspiring! Each page starts with a thought-provoking quote, like this one:

"Every day on dusty fields and grassy tracks across the region our athletes strive, overcoming obstacles, trying, succeeding, and exceeding our expectations. Reminding us of the can in every can't, the ability in every disability." - Dr John Dow Jr. (regional managing director)

However, there are also quotes like this one:

"Do not hide your special children. They are part of us, and denying them play, exposure and association is violating their basic human rights." - Thomas Gathu (Special Olympics Kenya athlete)

I live in a beautiful country - South Africa - that I am very proud of. It is part of the African Continent and this continent is filled with loving and friendly people. BUT, this continent is also filled with poverty, disease, illiteracy and lack of resources to fulfill basic human rights.

As the quote above indicates, in Africa, those born with intellectual and physical disabilities are often hidden in back rooms, away from the community to which they should belong. Their parents are ashamed, scared or just not educated enough to understand that there is hope for their little children.

Because home birth is an African tradition, and access to hospitals and clinics are so rare, no one even knows these children exist. I heard a story the other day of a woman with a mental handicap that has already had several abortions because she's been raped by men in her local community. Her daily job? To go fetch water two miles from home, every single day. She walks, unprotected, uncared-for... all this way. every. single. day.

Perhaps her mother does love her? Perhaps her mother knows of nothing else that she can get her daughter to do? Perhaps she even likes to fetch water, to feel as though she's contributing? But this is it - the sum total of her life, so far from what I would imagine her potential could be if she had access to resources.

For every story we hear, there are another 10,000 that we don't hear. According to the head of the director of Special Olympics South Africa, Annamarie van Wieringen, we have a total of 1.3million people with intellectual disabilities in SA, of which only 10% have access to resources such as therapists, schools, training workshops etc. That is only 130,000 people with mental disabilities... only 130,000 that actually have the resources to help them to reach their full potential.

Another shocking discovery? That children with Down syndrome are put last on a very long list of children who need heart operations in our State Hospitals. Why? Because they are seen as a 'lost cause'. So, if you are not one of the very few lucky people to have medical insurance, and your child has Down syndrome and a very common, very fixable heart condition, your child will most likely die.

When the Special Olympics team tour Africa, one of the things they do is offer free medical checks to the participants. For most, it is the first time they have ever been seen by a medical doctor.

So - why am I talking about this? What's the point? Can one person make a difference?

I think so. If I talk about this, maybe someone else will start talking about this, and then maybe a few more people will start talking and so the ripple grows wider. We have to start talking, we have to share hope, we have to educate, we have to expose the truth, because the truth is often hard to swallow, but as the old adage goes - it will certainly set us all free.

Free of prejudice. Free of stigma.

I will end this with a noble vision from the Special Olympics Africa website, which talks about Africa and the success stories they have told so far:

"showing courage, overcoming obstacles, trying, succeeding, and exceeding our expectations. And we will not stop. We will not stop until we have reached the estimated 190 million individuals [in Africa] with intellectual disability that are hidden in our neighbourhoods and communities. We will not stop until we have told 190 million stories that end in victory."


Cathy said...

Wow! Praying that your efforts are blessed!

ABandCsMom said...

Thanks for sharing...I LOVE these quotes!

I'm not sure I ever told you, but I think your kids look so angelic..does that make sense?? Gorgeous kids!

Lianna said...

Oh Loren. Your words hit hard. We need to talk about our children -- and we need society to SEE our children.

Writings, like this on your blog, is important.

Lorraine said...

I came across this quote yesterday that aptly applies to this post:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
~Margaret Meade

Anonymous said...

Ill talk about this, because there is hope and we must make a difference.

stephanie said...

I sent you an e mail about your post but I had to come back to tell you how beautiful your children are!! WOW!

Anderson Family said...

That is so sad that so many kids are hiding so to speak! Thanks for this post - and thanks for writing to make people aware that these kids are beautiful and that they deserve to be seen by everyone!! One thing I can't wait to get involved in is the special olympics - I think it will be fun when Carter is ready!

ParkerMama said...

An amazing post. Thank you so much for being willing to stand up and make a difference.

Tammy and Parker

TheRextras said...

Powerfully said, Loren.

(Did you see my post "Meet Adam"? In Feb, check archives.)