The title of this blog, Olapa oibor inkera, is a Masai proverb meaning “the children are the bright moon” which more so means, children bring pleasure to the home.
This past week I had the pleasure of meeting a darling, sweet little boy.
Little Lemasi, 2 years old and a mere 5.7 kg (11 lbs). I struggled with writing his story. But sometimes the only way to know, for those who will not meet him, is to hear.
Lemasi was born with severe cerebral palsy. This birth injury was most likely as a result of his mother being only 13 years old. Lemasi was born in a remote Masai village to a father with two wives. I’ve never met the mother of Lemasi, and honestly all I know of her is her age and that two months ago she ran away.
Was she tired of being the mother to a lame child? Was she tired of being married to a man more than three times her age? Was she tired of being reminded of the deal her parents made when they sold her to him, each time he crawled into bed with her? Was she tired of carrying the shame that came with her only male son being disabled? I’m not sure I can blame her for running away. Even when I think that she left little Lemasi all alone, unable to fight, maybe she knew she couldn’t fight either.
The Masai are a beautiful people. They are also a people that have a long history in traditions that we westerns can not/will not ever understand. It is not my place to say what is wrong or right. It is not my place to judge. But I know that my heart breaks. My heart breaks for the young girl, forced to marry and conceive at 13 years old. My heart breaks to see teenagers promised off to men three or four times their age. My heart breaks to hear stories of female genital mutilation. My heart breaks every time another baby come to Neema House from Masai land after their mother bleed out giving birth in their cow-dung home with no skilled attendants.
Lemasi. The fact that he ever survived his birth was a miracle in itself. The second miracle was that he was in front of us, at two years old. Many studies on special needs in Tanzania have declared the majority of children with cerebral palsy will not survive their first birthday. The primary reason being if their condition interferes with breast feeding, than they will starve. Lemasi was a fighter.
An elderly woman from Lemasi’s village came to us and told us his story with tears flooding out of her eyes. After Lemasi’s mother ran away he was left to the care (or lack their of) of his father and his other wife. The second wife despised Lemasi. They would leave him in the home of his mother at night, alone, without so much as a blanket. In the morning they would lift him outside and place him in the goat pen with the animals.
I watched this elderly woman care for little Lemasi like he was her own child. Not minding when he drooled his porridge all over her. Carrying him on her back. Singing to him and rocking him. This little boy, abandoned by his family, the outcast of the outcasts, and this woman declaring him worthy. This woman who has more than likely seen many terrible things in her life. This woman who could have walked away and just said, “he is not my child”. But she spoke of God and how He loves the little children, how He loves Lemasi, and how she loves him too.
We have since found a proper facility with specially trained staff to take care of Lemasi. It was well known that if he returned to the village he would not have lived much longer. Pray for Lemasi, that with proper nutrition and guidance and exercises he will live an long happy life.