Mathias and Eva and their son Erick

Five-year-old Erick was born in the Rwamwanja refugee settlement after tribalism and violence forced her parents to leave their home in the Congo. Mathias, his father, had been a village leader and worked in business. Now he is dependent on the support from the World Food Programme to supplement his income from working as a casual labourer. He must earn enough money to support his eleven children, two of whom are disabled. Erick has cerebral palsy and one of his siblings has a visual impairment.

When Erick was one year old, he stopped developing in the same way as his siblings had. His parents took him to the settlement health clinic and were initially told that there was nothing wrong with their son. After several visits, they eventually discovered that he had cerebral palsy. They were told that he would be “lame”, but as they had never heard of the condition, they did not know how to support him. There was only little support by other institutions and organisations that would specifically target Erick and his well-being.

Eva demonstrates an exercises to improve the mobility of her son´s wrist

COHERE and KDA’s project activities has shown Erick’s parents that through regular exercises and stretching, they can make a real difference to his quality of life. “I learned that my child can still improve despite his overall condition and this is why we started practicing at home and I want to continue doing it twice a day. Because we truly believe that these exercises will make his life better. We feel responsible for him and love him very much”, Erick’s mother Eva says. Baraka is happiest when he is being held and cuddled, but this is difficult for his parents when they have ten other children to look after. Physiotherapeutic and stretching exercises benefit Erick through the provision of physical contact that Erick enjoys very much whilst also improving his mobility.

The training has also made Erick’s parents much more optimistic about his future. They believe in the importance of education and are hopeful that he will be able to attend school one day alongside his siblings. Eva would also like to help other parents whose children have cerebral palsy as she has seen first-hand the impact of having the right information and support, “I was surprised when I saw other parents that have children with the same condition. Now we can share and support each other.”

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