Special Hope Network is a faith-based, Christian organization called to bear witness to God’s glory through caring for children with intellectual disabilities in Zambia by equipping families and caregivers to provide these children with a loving home, holistic health, and exceptional education and therapies.
Special Hope Network is a faith-based non-governmental organization located in Lusaka, Zambia (since May 2010), working specifically with children who have intellectual disabilities. The World Health Organization estimates that 2 out of every 10 children in the developing world are physically and/or intellectually disabled. Most of these children are not registered at birth, and have no official or legal status. They may not be counted, but we believe they still count.
We believe every child has a right to:
• Home – where they are loved, nurtured and challenged
• Health – where they are cared for body, soul and mind
• Education – where they can learn to achieve their fullest potential.
Sadly, because of specific circumstances in Southern Africa, these children are left particularly vulnerable. Most communities consider children who have a disability a curse—a punishment for his or her parent’s wrongdoing. Children are often hidden away and denied basic care. As a result 80% of these children will die before they are 5 years old.
Even if a child were allowed out into their community, they would find a staggering lack of resources. There are very few medical professionals educated in the field of disability, and even fewer willing to give a child with a disability quality care. As for education, most government schools do not have any sort of Special Education programs- the only examples of such programs exist in community-based schools (funded privately), and capacities at these schools are often very limited.
Our Community Care Centers were created to fill that lack of resources, so that families with children with intellectual disabilities would have a place to go where their child is ‘normal’ or just like every other child there. Moms would have a place where they aren’t stared at and their child isn’t laughed at or scorned. And parents would be taught all the skills they need to learn in order to help their child to reach their potential. Once a parent signs their child into our program, they learn how to teach their child pre-academic/academic skills, communication skills, motor skills (fine and gross), adaptive skills, feeding and positioning techniques, germ prevention and healthcare, and any other specific needs the child’s unique disability requires. Each child is hopefully then sponsored by a donor who helps cover the costs of this completely free program. Parents don’t pay a thing, and on top of that, if they faithfully attend and learn alongside their child, they receive an incentive at the end of every month that ranges in size and value based on the amount of days they attend. Our programs currently range from 2-5 days per week, and average 2 hours per day of attendance. We focus on a parent training model because we have seen that the parent or caregiver is the most fundamental factor impacting the life of that child. If the family accepts their child with an intellectual disability and takes them to the CCC, church, on minibuses and to the market, Zambian culture will slowly begin to shift and change, from one of seclusion to one of inclusion, from one of fear of the unknown, to one that accepts. Our CCCs have been transformational in many lives in the past 6 years, and we hope and pray that continues into the future.