#Article (Archive)

Why Should Society Help Children With Learning Difficulties?

Apr 21, 2009, 6:04 AM

(Like the HART House, Sinchu Alhagie)

There are different people including children that live in the world. Some children are born quite well others acquire the type of sickness that may get them crippled and others even die. Even with the advancement of Science, mental retardation in children has not got cure. Parents have no answer, especially those children who suffer from learning difficulties. Most of these children are left at home and some are despised and are maltreated so that they can die in time to give way to other activities. Geoff Hunwicks, a British national saw the need for a house to gather such children with these difficulties with his own resources since 2002 at Sinchu Alhagie. He has about 30 children but due to finances only about 17 of them live in the HART House. His wife Rohey Hunwicks resigned from her job to join hands to make the venture a success. But the couple has continually been challenged to run the Home in the absence of money and other assistance. They have been depending on some help from some people but it is not sustainable and tourists also play a part in sustaining the children. The tourist season is over they are now faced with bigger challenges of sustaining the children and the staff. They want President Jammeh to see them and to intervene but have not had the chance since. Society and Development have found out why society should not be silent but join hands to help Mr. and Mrs. Geoff Hunwicks to help the needy.

According to Rohey, the wife of the CEO of the Gambian Home for Children with Learning Difficulties otherwise known as HART House at SinchiAlhagieVillage, passionately said that it does not matter how good the building looks, the running cost is important. The building allows rain to enter through the window, which is not good. The paint all over is worn out. The US Embassy had helped but it still leaks. Our problems are many including furniture repairs, change of mosquito nets, electricity, as many activities go with electricity for the children, helping us electricity would be a plus. She said they have a Website and even that they pay for it every year, coupled with salary for the staff, food and the day today running of the place. She said off-season tells on them a lot because it becomes difficult for them. "We struggle mostly at this time, at least the last tourists came in today so the challenge goes on.

Rohey further said that allowing children with learning difficulties to come to the House means allowing them to enjoy their lives, "It is still a constant challenge," she said. She continued to say that children who come here pay nothing, their parents only bring them and we care for them. If payment was introduced many parents would withdraw their children and the children will suffer. We help pay transport for them we do everything for them at HART House.

Asking what is taught to children with such learning difficulties, Rohey and Geoff said they do physiotherapy, Sign Language, Washing and Dressing. This is to help them become independent when they grow up. This, they say is in line with their objective to take care of children with learning difficulties and teach them. We give them high standard care, they are safe and secured here as when they would be at home. Although in some homes these children with learning difficulties get lost, spoil things, while here they learn to be responsible and could do the normal things when they grow. This they said is important in the lives of those they care for. "We develop them mentally and physically, using the holistic approach. There are millionaires who cannot read and write. Some of our children have epilepsy. There are those who have no idea as to how to wear shoes, we teach them to be able to do it. In their homes they tell them, " Baiko Defa Dof" (He is mad), when they can't distinguish between madness and the children's state.

We teach them different approaches due to their differences; they were brought here cause of that. They can't learn just by standing on the board. Our teaching is practical base. We hold their hands and rub it over their faces several times and you eventually leave them to continue by themselves. This helps them to know how to wash their faces. There are quite severe ones they do not know whether the sun is rising or setting.

They further said that when children come in for the first time, they assess their mental state and put them in categories and make their timetable. "Children miss out a lot when they are left at home," they said. They said there are certain types of children that family members would not help but we do not pick and choose. Some close their children in rooms when they go for naming ceremonies etc.

Children come from Monday to Friday and they go to their parents for the weekends. We call it "Respite Care Home," where parents are given a break. In The Gambia the burden of growing children is dependent on the woman, given them the help is fantastic.

In the light of these problems, Mr. and Mrs. Geoff went on to appeal to Gambians and non-Gambians to help these kids only to make a difference to their lives. "This is a man that came with all his resources to set this up. I also quit my job to sit and care 24 - 7 for these kids," Rohey said. This is the most difficult part of the year for us, when tourists are gone. "The staff will be laid off, we reduce the number of children, which will bring burden on all families. I feel bad sometimes when my husband says look let us close down this place for now. I feel bad and feel the children will loose the love, care and support they receive," she said.

"We are asking that people come and see what is happening here. My husband brought this up and we thought the challenge would not be much but it has increased. We have to go knocking at doors tomorrow to see what we can get to support these kids. I do not feel happy when my husband cries for the lack of it, when especially we get no help at the time it is needed. As a Gambian I feel always like burying myself because it hurts so much," Rohey said.

Geoff said they are now trying to cut cost by cutting down on the days for attending by children. "It is our responsibility as Gambians or human beings to support us. Geoff is from Europe and he is helping us in such a way, we Africans need to help ourselves as well," Rohey said.

We are asking President Jammeh to come and see what we are doing at the HART House. We are extending a special invitation to your Excellency to see how we intend to help children with disabilities and how we are helping them with our little resources and by the help of some philanthropist. But we need a sustainable assistance because our challenge is continuous," Geoff said.