A girl sits in a specialized wheelchair with her two sisters standing next to her

Family thrives with rehabilitation, livelihood assistance

At the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya, Humanity & Inclusion operates a number of inclusive projects to assist people with disabilities. One family demonstrates the importance of this holistic approach to humanitarian aid. 

When Armele’s mother led her and her seven siblings to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they did not know where to go. The family sought refuge in Kenya, ending up at Kakuma Refugee Camp and eventually the more permanent Kalobeyei settlement. 

The family settled in, accessing vital services like food and housing. But two of Armele’s sisters, Lydia and Jolie, required additional assistance. Lydia, 10, lives with paralysis caused by hydrocephalus–a buildup of fluid on the brain that, if left untreated, can cause permanent physical and cognitive disabilities. Jolie, 6, was born with cerebral palsy, creating difficulties for her to walk and speak. 

“When we came here, we looked for somewhere to get help,” Armele says. “We were told to visit Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center. We took Lydia and Jolie there and started doing exercises four days a week.” 

Getting to the therapy sessions was challenging. The nearest rehabilitation center is in the next village–a 45-minute trek through the desert. Unable to walk, Lydia and Jolie relied on their mother and siblings to carry them to and from their appointments. Occasionally, they were able to arrange to be dropped off by motorbike–the most common mode of transportation in the camp. 

With funding from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Humanity & Inclusion provides the only rehabilitation services in Kakuma. 


Therapy at home 

As the sisters began to show improvement, Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists were able to shift the rehabilitation sessions to the family’s home. Physical therapists and community rehabilitation workers living in the settlement, who Humanity & Inclusion has trained in rehabilitation techniques, visit them two to three times a week, massaging their muscles and leading them through functional exercises. The girls’ caregivers have also learned how to continue their treatment at home. 

“Jolie has come so far,” Armele explains. “She depended on a caregiver for everything until she started the therapy program. Now she can talk, move and go to school.” 

Jolie received a walker to help her cover long distances, and specialists are still working to help improve her balance. Able to walk on her own, Jolie is now enrolled in school. 

“I like to run and sing,” she says.  

Lydia’s disability is more severe, but the family has seen improvements in her movement and mood. She lights up when Armele lifts her into her special wheelchair, which supports her posture and makes it easier for her to leave the confines of home. 

Holistic assistance 

In addition to rehabilitation and education assistance, Humanity & Inclusion has helped the girls’ mother establish a business to care for her family. With support from Mastercard Foundation, she received a microgrant to fund inventory for her clothing store in the village. She is able to generate income to better care for her eight children, while the older siblings take care of Lydia and Jolie. With her earnings, she purchased a mattress for the children to sleep more comfortably. 

“Humanity & Inclusion supports us a lot, especially my mom,” Armele says. “Since we came here as refugees, we didn’t know where to start from. Humanity & inclusion has given our mom an opportunity to take care of us children. We learn from her. She takes care of all of us.” 

The family also receives mental health and psychosocial support, joining other community members in a support system for caregivers of people with disabilities. With a referral to UNHCR from Humanity & Inclusion, the family also had a special coating applied to the metal roof of their home to provide better insulation and cooler temperatures for the family members who stay there throughout the hottest part of the day. 

“We are one family,” Armele says. “With Humanity & Inclusion, we are one family.”