Visit to Moses

Four-year-old Moses lays in the arms of Marie, the young girl who is child-sitting along with her friend Abigail, whilst Moses’ mum is out at the market. ‘Moses can do nothing,’ she says. ‘He can only eat and cry, but he can’t walk or talk or even hold up his head.’

I take Moses in my arms. His fingers are contracted, but he has good movement in his arms and legs. When I sit him on my lap with his feet firmly on the ground, he is able to hold his head up without assistance. I take a small toy car from my bag and hold it high up in front of him. He eagerly reaches for it and tries to grab it. Wherever I place the car, he tries his best to hold it. Abigail and Marie watch in astonishment. When I replace the car with a small banana, he squeals with delight and immediately tries to put it in his mouth. This little boy has so much potential! ‘With the right input and help, he could feed himself,’ I say.

Pastor Sophony is leader of a group of pastors in Bugesera where Moses lives that is working with APRECOM to bring transformation to those who are marginalised. He is visiting Moses with us. Taking the toy car, he holds it above Moses. To everyone’s amazement, Moses yells with excitement and spontaneously pulls himself off my lap and stands up, wobbling wildly, but nonetheless in an upright position. We burst out laughing and cheer him on! It’s so frustrating and frankly unjust that because of prejudice, poverty, low expectations, and a lack of services, children like Moses fail to be given the support and opportunities they need and deserve to develop their abilities.

Curious local village children have been crowding around the door and peering in the tiny window. ‘Let’s take Moses outside to say hello to the other children’ I suggest. On cue, Moses pulls himself up to a standing position and with Odeth holding him on one side and Pastor Sophony on the other, he approaches the door, laughing and squealing with pleasure as the sunlight touches his face. The local children back away, obviously unsure and nervous of him. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ I say. He’s just like you and wants to be friends.’ Pastor Sophony sits on the low window sill and places Moses on his lap. In this context, it’s a radical and ground-breaking example.  Gradually the children approach and shake the hand of Moses. ‘I have learned so much this morning,’ smiles Pastor Sophony. ‘There is so much we can do to help these children. It’s been wonderful!’

During my time with APRECOM, I teach the team how to use simple toys and items to stimulate the cognitive abilities of children with disabilities and to enhance their motor skills, as well as how to use massage and simple therapy techniques to loosen and strengthen contracted limbs.

APRECOM is advocating to local government and church leaders for the care and support of children like Moses. I am delighted to learn before leaving Rwanda that one church leader has committed to buying daily milk for Moses to strengthen his bones and body. It’s a good start!