“We Are Here: Making the Invisible Visible” by Carolyn Jenkins
June 21, 2017: Today we had the honor of joining the Ndohivyo School for their “Special Olympics”. Ndohivyo School is a school for students with special needs. The school is positioned next to an elementary school for students without disabilities. So many thoughts and questions raced through my head all day – were there interactions between the students with special needs and the students who attended the school right next door? How did the community accept the school for students with special needs what would a “Special Olympics” look like in this small town in eastern Kenya?The day began with the students, staff of Ndohivyo School and Kenya Keys staff parading through the town carrying a banner that read, “Ndohivyo School for the Mentally Challenged.” As we paraded through town, I tried to get a feel for the reaction of the people in the town. Some people waved, gave a thumbs up or smiled broadly, others did not acknowledge the waves from the students, made no eye contact, or in some cases looked a bit disgusted. Although it is impossible to know the range of attitudes toward the school and the students with disabilities who attend, just days before the “Special Olympics” I had a conversation about this topic with the teachers and the principal of the school. From their comments, I left that meeting thinking the school did not receive much support from the community. Relating this parade to that conversation made the parade all that much more important. To me it made the invisible more visible. I had the urge as I marched shoulder to shoulder with these students to yell —“We are here! We are here!”
The principal, Mr. Raphael Galuka, masterfully orchestrated the events of the day. It is important to acknowledge the dedication and passion of Mr. Galuka. He led the parade and each sporting event with the gusto of a proud parent reveling in a child’s accomplishment. The Olympic events were: running races, Frisbee throws (know to them as “Freeze be’s”), races to fill
bottles with sand and balloon blowing competitions. All of the students were “decked out” in vibrant red t-shirts, and each student at some point received an official looking “Special Olympic” medal (I later learned that a generous donor in Oregon had arranged for the t-shirts and medals). Mr. Galuka was the MC extraordinaire for the entire day.
The events took place in a field behind the school, and included a dirt track for the running events. I was impressed with the speed of some of the students. Without coaxing, each student participated as if they had worked all year for “their event.” I was happy to see some of the students from the neighboring elementary school watching from the sidelines. I tried to encourage interaction among the students.
Another high point of the day was watching the students dance to the music that was blasted over the loud speakers in between each event. There was such joy on their faces and “know how” in their movements. Even students who had limited movement their disability join in.
At the end of the long hot day, Mr. Galuka was still welcoming, advocating and celebrating. His dedication will ensure the community, the region and the country know of his students at Ndohivyo School.
Carolyn Jenkins traveled with the Kenya Keys U.S. Interns team to Taru in June, 2107. Carolyn is a career professional in Special Needs education in Salt Lake City, Utah.