MAMA BAKHITA CHESHIRE HOME
Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home in 1996
The Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home in Livingstone, Zambia, is one of 11 Cheshire centers in Zambia for the care of disabled children. Named after Leonard Cheshire, an Englishman who began this organization in India in 1955, each center in Zambia is organized differently. Some are actual living situations, and others are referral centers. All are run by local Zambian Sisters of St. Francis, trained for this work by the Franciscan Order.
The Mama Bakhita was opened in 1995 by a small group Zambian Franciscan Sisters. They determined that the greatest need in their community was help for children with disabilities. These children were often hidden away, and not given therapy, education or proper medical care, partially because of extreme poverty, but also due to shame caused by the stigma attached to families with disabled children. The Sisters went into the poorest neighborhoods and sought out families with handicapped children. Despite resistance, they convinced five families to bring their children to the Mama Bakhita for physiotherapy, medical attention, food and clothing.
Emily Nupua giving Gavin physical therapy
In addition to the medical help, the Mama Bakhita now provides two meals a day and education according to the child’s disability. All services are provided free of charge. Grant money from Ireland, Zambia and the U.S. has made possible the additions of a small school, physical and hydrotherapy rooms, an office, a workshop hall, a guesthouse and a commercial kitchen. Unfortunately, maintenance of all these buildings is expensive, and the always struggling Zambian economy is continually getting worse.
Mama Bakhita Special Ed School in 2017
The Mama Bakhita is the only facility in the Southern Province of Zambia offering such a variety of services free of charge to families who live on the margins of society. People travel great distances, by bus and on foot, hoping to find assistance for their children. The state-of-the-art physical therapy room, the school (which only takes 25 students), medical assistance, food and clothing are why they come.
Instead of being a source of shame for their families, these lucky children, able to attend school for the first time, are aware of their potential to learn and grow, and to be a valued part of a community.
Mama Bakhita Gates with view of guest house and offices
The Mama Bakhita, as unique as it is, suffers from lack of funding. The government cannot fund even basic public schools and, because of economic distress, has little to offer other educational facilities.
The AACDP continues to search for foundations committed to improving the lives of children with disabilities in developing countries like Zambia. This unique center is dedicated to helping a community that has been long ignored.
Mama Bakhita children with puppets