Tuesday, March 2, 2010


‘Every meeting of persons is an exchange of gifts’ so it has been with my Yumba encounters. Yumba’ the name of the school for people with mental disabilities literally means ‘Love them ‘. It is at this site from the word go I felt so powerless, vulnerable and gifted all at the same time. Daily I leave the community around 07:00 AM to find means of transport to go the outskirts of Tamale to my God meeting place.
I am always dumbfounded by the children’s gesture and attitude which happens daily. Upon arrival they take time embracing one another with a hug, a kiss, a hand shake and those not opened up fully, you can’t go without a Smile and ‘Dasiba’. This is such an unusual and surprising mind-set to find in these people. Despite the fact that it sounds filthy’ students go together in the bush for toilet and chat out and ensure the friends have finished and walk back to class with a procession.
In contrast to these concerned and embracing students, the school is also blessed with distressing students ranging from stone throwers-(who gave a welcome the first day by stoning me and it is his tradition to beat/stone someone as long as he is awake, my brother Sunday and other teachers are not exempt from this stone greeting), the crying with cause known to self only, Urinating on themselves and toileting in class, those who produce saliva and mucus.
Generally the Special school put up with the mild, moderate and profound- and worse the majority seems to have multiple problems raging from mental, physical, social and psychological challenges. The culture which most families are attached to so much is not friendly to the people with all sorts of challenges as they link all these problems to be a curse, witchcraft, offending spirits and failed ancestors. For these reasons they endure greater social alienation, discrimination, stigma, denial and insecurity, and hope asks where God is.
I am spending most of my time with what is called the vocation class. The class is so annoying especially when you introduce anything intellectual, but you cannot believe how proficient and talented these people are in handiwork. As I write I am working closely with students and another teacher in sharing my little ideas in tie & dye. Other lessons offered include drawing, home economics, door mat weaving, handkerchief sewing, sharing of stories and moral talks. Thanks are to God in the next 2 weeks tie-dye uniforms will be produced by these gifted students.
Mystified by these encounters I ask myself the “WHY” questions and other questions I have concerning my relationship with self, the other and what these experiences might be saying to me, the church and the entire globe. As I try to be Christ like, this is a chance for me to analyze my capacity for loving. How do I relate and express my Love? What do I see in people with mental disabilities and after meeting them are they any better? How can I live the discovered commandment “Do unto others what you wish them to do to you?” Why am I not comfortable to meet people who provoke, challenge, question my culture and belief or to meet a person whose presence reveals my limitations? How free am I from the sin of stigmatizing of individuals not only with disabilities but even those with a different thought?
In response to this experience, human relationship and the fact that each human person is created equally in the image of the God of Jesus Christ, is loved equally and unconditionally by that God, not just as an individual but also as a part of a developing single human community, one family of God, which is destined for the final reign of God. The human equality and divinity I believe have been confirmed, renewed and transformed in the incarnation -in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As a follower of Christ and Edmund I feel called to ensure that each person is treated as a member of the divine family and not subjected to stigmatization, discrimination, exploitation or exclusion, either directly by individuals or indirectly through social structures and processes. Building upon my analysis of this reflection some of the specific recommendations for actions that can be taken in reaction to the challenges and concerns that stir up, I put them in line with my commitment to advocacy for greater social justice for all in our society, especially for the poor and suffering:
-I am called on to become the living presence of Jesus’ very body ‘I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me: insofar as I now live in flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who has loved me …”(Gal 2:20)
-All humanity to promote greater justice for people who are mentally disadvantaged by attacking/questioning structures that continue to disempower and decimate our brothers and sisters.
-I, the Brothers, the church and other people valuing life should sharply condemn and root out any stigma and discrimination relating to persons living with disabilities.

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