James will turn 19 next month. He contracted cerebral malaria at six months old which resulted in brain damage and left him presenting with cerebral palsy. He is a quadriplegic and lives in a rural village in Malawi. This story though, is not actually about him but about his sister, the young woman sitting behind him. Onenje is 21 years old and is now James’ main carer since their mother became ill. Her grasp of the English language is wonderful and she explains how she now makes sure that James is fed and bathed and receives the stimulation that he needs. But it isn’t always easy. Onenje has to help with collecting water and firewood too as their grandmother cannot always do everything and has other younger grandchildren to look after. There is a lot of responsibility on these young shoulders hence the look of concentration as she watches Matilda demonstrate the exercises which are to be done three times a day.
Our Disabilities and Rehabilitation project is not only about supporting those living with a disability but the families too. Understanding and learning how to best accommodate the needs of someone who cannot look after themselves is challenging in any environment but in rural Malawi even more so.