Jessica Charles, MPH, is a global health professional with over 15 years of experience as a nonprofit director, project manager, teacher trainer and communications specialist. She lived in China and Botswana for three years managing health and education projects and has supported field teams in more than 20 developing nations implementing USAID, CDC, PEPFAR and privately-funded projects. Jessica has a passion for health advocacy, disease prevention, capacity building and microfinance solutions.
Thanks for this feedback and the helpful storytelling training! Here are my answers:
- Perhaps “community acceptance” is a clearer phrase than “inclusion.” The main idea we want to convey is that, because pastors, imams and traditional healers are such popular opinion leaders in Kenya, they can help children with disabilities to be accepted in all aspects of society – from clinics to schools to social gatherings to religious services. And that, instead of being accepted as a separate “disability group” within these structures, they can actually be infused into the existing groups. In short, we inspire spiritual leaders to help these children access the same rights, health care, education and loving community as people without disabilities.
- We work in Kenya and Tanzania and will expand our model through partnerships with development organizations in other nations.
- “I'm curious what ‘reduce harmful beliefs and practices’ mean.” In Kenya, traditional practices like burning and cutting rituals are painful and ineffective. Spiritual beliefs that place blame and shame on the child and his/her family can be equally as damaging. Some of the practices and beliefs have even led to the murder of these children.
- “I'm curious to learn more about how this specific group already interact with children with disabilities and what Kupenda trainings do to shift what exists…”
Pastors counsel families impacted by disability and may advise caregivers to pray or fast in order to show their faith in God’s ability to heal the child. Unfortunately, if the child is not healed, pastors often blame the families for a lack of faith.
Traditional healers perform rituals to heal the children. This may involve innocuous herbal remedies or harmful cutting and burning practices. Many of these healers propagate the belief that disabilities are causes by curses or demons and convince families to pay them for traditional practices that are intended to “cure” them by lifting the curse or exorcizing demons.
As with pastors, Muslim imams in Kenya often counsel families impacted by disability. Although we are still researching how they interact with the children themselves, we have learned that many imams have infused traditional religious beliefs and rituals into their own practices.
Kupenda holds workshops to help these faith leaders understand the biological causes and medical treatments for disabilities so they begin to refer these children for medical care, rather than treat them with prayer or harmful rituals. We also draw on information from their religious texts to help them understand that children with disabilities are worthy of love and acceptance and that they have a spiritual obligation to protect and care for these children. By presenting legislation about child and disability rights, we further emphasize these leaders’ legal responsibility to protect children with disabilities. Finally, we have each group develop action plans that help them identify, support, refer and protect children with disabilities in their communities and follow-up regularly to ensure they are implementing these plans.
“I'm curious how you reach the spiritual leaders and encourage them to participate in the workshops…”
We approach spiritual leaders through 1:1 meetings or their chiefs and colleagues. Often times, inviting these leaders through their chiefs and colleagues helps to establish trust and convince them of our collaborative intentions. This is particularly effective when we communicate with them through spiritual leaders who have already completed our trainings and who have seen the benefit of our content and trust our intentions. Such an approach is particularly important among traditional healers, many of whom are suspicious of outside parties due to a history of judgment from Christians and arrests from government leaders seeking to reduce dangerous witchcraft practices. We also reduce resistance by validating helpful traditional and religious practices.
- “What questions do you have that you haven't solved yet? What are your current needs?”
Although Kupenda has existed since 2003, we are still working to develop our spiritual leader training program. So far, we have run 23 pastor workshops and 3 traditional healer workshops and are still researching to finalize content for our Muslim leaders’ workshop. With each group, we are working to learn more about the most effective workshop content and M&E systems. We are also exploring other training approaches through research and discussions with organizations like The Carter Center in Liberia and projects like the Faith Effect in Ethiopia and Nigeria. We would love research and design assistance as we develop this project – both to learn the full spectrum of what other resources and models are available and to tailor content, delivery and evaluation methodologies for our target populations.
On Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 12:40 PM, Scott Shigeoka <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: Hi Jessica,
Here's some feedback for your sentence and idea. Thanks for joining the storytelling workshop!
Kupenda's trainings for pastors, traditional healers, and imams help to reduce harmful beliefs and practices while improving care and inclusion for children with disabilities
My feedback: I think overall, this is a really clear sentence. What I'm hearing: you provide training to a particular group of people for two specific reasons. I'm curious if "inclusion" is the right word in this sentence, or if there's another word that can better support what you're saying here. Is there a particular area of the world you're working in? I'm curious what "reduce harmful beliefs and practices" mean. When I read more into your idea ("what problem does your idea solve") that's when it becomes clear to me. That's a really important piece of context. I'm very intrigued by your idea. Its specificity makes me want to learn more. It seems like you have a clear grasp on your users and needs. I'm curious to learn more about how this specific group (pastors, traditional healers and imams) already interact with children with disabilities, and what Kupenda trainings do to shift what already exists (based on the needs of the children, their families and the leaders you train). I'm curious about how you reach the spiritual leaders and encourage them to participate in the workshop/training. Is there resistance? Why are they willing to participate? What questions do you have that you haven't solved yet? What are your current needs? Sounds like Kupenda has been around for a while, would be curious to get a high-level understanding of your insights, what you've learned and your tangible impact in Kenya.
Scott Shigeoka Community Designer & Storyteller, OpenIDEO Follow me on Twitter: @scottshigeoka Email: email@example.com
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I love the idea of Expert Mums – how powerful! We run parent workshops and have found the same energy from mothers and grandmothers who care deeply about their children but have been discouraged by ineffective traditional practices and judgment from those in their families and communities. We provide these women with information, link them to services and help them establish or participate in parent support groups. We also run Community Disability Awareness Days that sound similar to your parties and family “fun days.” I just downloaded the ‘Getting to Know Cerebral Palsy' manual and shared it with my colleagues and signed up for the LSHTM International Centre for Evidence in Disability newsletter. Thanks so much for sharing these great resources. Please feel free to share any other materials you've found useful.
And yes, we do provide education and medical care for children with disability in Kenya – some through our offices and others directly to communities and through special education facilitators. And we’ve found that we can reach even more children with these services when we lead trainings that inspire compassion and support from the spiritual leaders, government officials, teachers, and community members that surround them.
Thank you again for your response and for the important work you are doing in Uganda! Jessica