Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home
Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home in 1996
The Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home in Livingstone, Zambia, was opened in 1995 by a small group of Zambian women who were part of the Sisters of St. Francis whose mission was to determine what the community in Livingstone needed most. Helping and legitimizing children with disabilites seemed the most pressing need within the area, so they went into the poorest neighborhoods and sought out families with handicapped children. This was not easy because such children were kept hidden because of shame and social stigma. With difficulty, they convinced five families to bring their children to their center for simple physiotherapy, medical attention, food and clothing.
Mama Bakhita is one of 11 Cheshire centers in Zambia for the care of disabled children named after Leonard Cheshire, an Englishman who began these organizations in India in 1955. Each center in Zambia seems to be organized differently. Some are actual living situations others are referral centers. All are run by local Zambian Franciscan Sisters trained for this work by the Franciscan order. This center provides free of charge, physiotherapy, medical attention, two meals a day and education according to the child’s disability.
Emily Nupua giving Gavin Physical therapy
Since those early days grant money from Ireland, Zambia and the US 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 Zambian economy has continued to worsen.
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, in hopes to find some 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.
These lucky ones, who are able for the first time to attend school, instead of being a source of shame for their families, are aware of their potential to learn and grow and 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 these days from lack of funding. The government cannot fund basic public schools and has little to offer other educational facilities because it is in economic distress.
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