Imagine a community where children with disabilities are cared for by families, by community workers, and by teachers. Imagine one where older social workers and teachers train and mentor novices and mothers; where mothers have access to all the resources they need to care for their children. This capacity, or self-reliance, is what we hope and pray to one day see in the small, rural town of Isfara.
We believe we are beginning to witness the first signs of such capacity in the growth and development of our local staff and those attending the social worker trainings we lead. To illustrate this, we would like to share the story of one of our coworkers, Nigina*.
Nigina began bringing her son to our disabilities group from the very beginning of our work in Isfara, in 2015. Since then, she has brought him faithfully, knowing the value of regular interaction and input for him and seeing him progress through the group’s activities. After over a year of voluntarily helping in the group and encouraging other mothers, in September 2016, we decided to employ her as one of our first local staff.
Since then, she has been committed to her own professional development, she has been asking questions to learn more about her work and attending trainings. She engages with all the children in the group and can run the singing, lessons, and group activities on her own. Her confidence has grown immensely, and with this growth, she has begun to teach and train other mothers in a way that contributes to making Operation Mercy’s work in Isfara truly sustainable.
Most recently, during staff appraisal conversations, we were yet again astonished by how much she’s grown and improved in her work. She shared about several very exciting and unexpected goals. Nigina would like to lead her own classes for mothers. Though she needs some help preparing them, she’s excited to contribute in such a way. As well, she pointed out that there are still many children with severe disabilities stuck at home, who local social workers are incapable of working with. She wants to begin doing home visits with them. Nigina and her coworkers are perhaps the only people from Isfara who possess the knowledge and skills to properly help these vulnerable children.
It is encouraging to see this newfound capacity in a mother of a child with a disability. Previously she was isolated at home, but now she is bringing her son into the community, interacting with other mothers, and using her own experiences with disabilities to help and encourage others. We believe community-wide transformation begins with each person. Nigina is living proof.