Thursday, 11 August 2016

Lovely Lawrence

My sister Rhi is an Occupational Therapist. During her five months here in Kaniki she's been using her skills to help and support a boy that we all love, Lawrence. She's introduced an exercise programme for him and led training for his Dad and the staff at Kapumpe. I asked her to tell you some of his story...

When I look back on my trip to Zambia I will definitely remember Lawrence. Lawrence is 9 years old and in Grade 1 at Kapumpe Christian Primary School. He loves coming to school and I don’t think I have ever seen him without a smile on his face.

Always smiling

Lawrence and his twin were born three months prematurely. They were kept in an incubator at the hospital but sadly his twin died. His dad told me that when the twin died, they discovered the incubator had been too hot so it had to be cooled down before baby Lawrence was put back in. 

In December 2015 Lawrence’s father cycled to Kapumpe Christian Primary School to ask if his son could attend the school. He spoke to Rosie and explained that because Lawrence couldn’t walk, none of the local schools would accept him. Lawrence has cerebral palsy and Ellie and Rosie weren’t sure whether they would be able to support such a physically disabled child whilst the school was still in its early stages, but they went away to discuss it and pray about the situation. As Grade 1 teacher, Rosie felt prompted to welcome him into her class in the new school year. She didn’t know what to expect but trusted that somehow God would enable the school to support him.

Lawrence when he started at school

Lawrence's cerebral palsy mainly affects his legs, which means that if he is sitting at a desk you might not notice any difference between him and the other children in the class. A container of donated items from Denmark arrived in Kaniki in January 2016, which happened to contain a four-wheeled walker. Ellie and Rosie took the walker, hoping that it might be suitable for Lawrence. Rosie encouraged him to use it to try to walk, and soon he was walking around school in his own way, albeit falling over frequently but quickly getting up, smiling and walking on again. 

Lawrence with the four-wheeled walker

When I came out to Zambia in March I brought with me a children’s walking frame which had been kindly donated by a local children’s therapy department. The frame enabled Lawrence to walk in an upright position, and as children’s frames are open at the front he is also able to use it to play football, join in class activities and run up and down the dirt track next to the playground. He is such a bright and friendly boy who absolutely loves learning and playing.

Playing with the parachute alongside his class

Playing ball with his friend

A couple of my friends are paediatric physiotherapists and were kind enough to suggest some exercises that might help Lawrence. We’ve been doing these exercises with him on a daily basis and his posture and flexibility has improved. 

Doing his daily exercises

Lawrence’s Dad recently told the staff how grateful he is for the help and support his son has received at Kapumpe and the positive impact it has had on Lawrence’s life. He reflected on how Lawrence had been unable to walk before January this year and how grateful he is to Rosie and the team for making the bold decision to accept him into the school and giving him the opportunity to walk.

Lawrence lives in a town called Soweto which takes nearly two hours to Kapumpe by bike. His father and brother take turns to bring him to school on the back of their bike each day. They then return at the end of the day to collect him. Lawrence’s father recently shared his concern about Lawrence missing days at school when there is a problem with the bike, which can happen quite frequently due to the local potholed roads.
Getting picked up from school on the bike

A few weeks ago during a staff meeting, I was able to teach the staff about cerebral palsy and the types of challenges that Lawrence faces. Lawrence and I then demonstrated his exercise programme to enable other members of staff to be able to do these with him. We invited his Dad to this meeting and he told us afterwards that he had never been given any information on cerebral palsy before. He informed us that he had taken Lawrence to a number of hospitals when he was younger to ask for help, but was told that they would not give him any exercises until he was 15 years old. 

Lawrence’s Dad also informed us that Lawrence was still unable to walk at home as he did not have shoes to wear or a walking aid to use at home. We provided him with a pair of boots for Lawrence to keep at home and purchased a pair of crutches for him to start practising with at school. Lawrence took to the crutches straight away, although we found that he still needed the frame when playing sport and when he was tired. We were able to get hold of a second pair of crutches from the local hospital and gave these to Lawrence to use at home. 

Lawrence was given advice on using the crutches by one of our teachers

Lawrence loves his new-found freedom and can sometimes be seen running along the path at school with his frame, seeing how fast he can go! At our recent sports day he was so delighted to be able to join in every group activity and to represent his team in the sprint. The other children were very supportive and patient with him, which was great to see.

It has been incredibly humbling to work with such a positive, happy boy and to see the lengths that his family go to in order to support him. It is amazing to see how such small interventions have had such a significant impact on his life and his future. I am so grateful that Rosie was keen to include Lawrence in her class, and both her and our Zambian teacher in Grade 1 continue to ensure he has the support he needs whilst treating him as an equal member of the class.

Being used to working with adults, this has been my first experience of paediatric therapy, and it has definitely been a positive one!

Lawrence is just one of the children who attends Kapumpe Christian Primary School. For more information and updates visit our Facebook page:

This story has been shared with the permission of Lawrence's family.

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! What an awesome little boy. Such a testimony of what happens when you are given a chance when someone invests time in their lives. xx