by John Lyon, World Hope International
World Hope International (WHI) has been working in Sierra Leone for more than two decades to alleviate poverty, suffering, and injustice. WHI’s Enable the Children (ETC) program provides personalized physical and occupational therapy, care, and support services to approximately 1,000 children living with disabilities in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
False beliefs about the acquisition of disability are all too common across the West African nation, some attributing disability to a punishment from God as retribution for parents’ sinful behavior or an act of the devil. Both children and their families are often stigmatized and ostracized from their communities.
Like Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples in John 9, the heartbeat of ETC is to come alongside these families and extend the love of Christ to those who have lost hope and to reaffirm the value, dignity, and life of their children. One such child is Alfred.
Alfred was raised by his mother and grandmother, as his father died at the time of his birth. He is delayed in his development and has a left-sided weakness. Before meeting the ETC team in Freetown, Alfred’s mother shared that she held a lot of discouragement and grief over her son’s condition. All that changed when the ETC staff started working with Alfred and he began to exhibit improvement from therapeutic exercises.
In 2019, ETC launched a series of successful sports events in the community that have even led to positive conversations with the Special Olympics Committee. Isha Johansen, the President of the Sierra Leone Football Association, announced a partnership with ETC, and children in the program were able to meet and play alongside their national soccer team, the Leone Stars. This new development could lead to some exciting prospects in Disability Sports – and is an incredible advocacy opportunity for diversity and inclusion.
“I love seeing peoples’ minds be changed by the determination of the human spirit,” shared Robert Brugler, a member of the support staff of ETC.
In September, Alfred was thrilled to be able to join 24 other children in getting to meet the Leone Stars. It was a special honor for Alfred to not only see some of the best players in the country up close, but to also pass the ball back and forth and spend time with the players.
For a child who loves football and has had a rough start to his young life, being part of ETC and getting the chance to meet the Leone Stars was a great experience for him–and a story that echoed through many of our 1,000+ current patients who benefit from the services and encouragement of ETC.
I am not sure what would have happened to me and my son if Enable the Children had not got involved. My son has improved so much and now he is playing football with the Leone Stars. Usually people move away from me because of my son’s condition, but you embrace him for who he is. ~Alfred’s mother
Jesus said in John 9:3 (NIV) “Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . . but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
World Hope International is an international Christian relief and development organization working with vulnerable and exploited communities to alleviate poverty, suffering, and injustice around the world by implementing water, health, and child protection programming through market-based and community-led solutions.