Madina Nampiima speaks in song

Madina like hundreds of children we care for in Uganda was born with both a physical and mental disability – She can’t use words, so she can only make noise to express her joy, hunger, or sadness.

As soon as her father saw that she was disabled, he left her and her mother. Her mother, Casalinah, asked his family for help – even just financial help, as she had no other family of her own. They told her to never come back. A disabled child, they said, didn’t belong to their side of the family.

In Africa, a disabled child is considered a curse.

Madinah needed to go to the hospital for her condition, but Casalinah never had the money. Casalinah wanted to give her daughter an education, but no school would take her. She sought out even a small job to cater to Madina’s needs, but no one would hire a cursed woman.

She had only a small piece of land in Kiwoko, Uganda, on which she built a small hut out of mud, reeds, and grass. At the very least, they had a roof over their heads. The roof, however, leaked when it rained. Confined to the driest corner of the house, Casalina would shield her daughter from the rain. If it rained at night, they would huddle in this corner, unable to lie down until the storm passed. Their home only had a small pit latrine, leaving Casalina and her daughter vulnerable to cholera.

“Madinah is my child, and I love her,” Casalinah said. “Though her father abandoned us due to Madina’s disability, though relatives hated us since they see her as a curse, I will never abandon my lovely daughter.”

Madina’s story is not uncommon.

In Africa, when a child is born with a disability, the entire family is considered to be cursed. Many families will try to hide the “curse”. If word gets out, their families will abandon them and no one in the community will even consider marrying their siblings. So, their own caretakers will often hide them away in a back room. These children don’t get to go to school. They don’t get to see the doctor. Some of them die in these back rooms. Those who do stand for their children face the consequences.

Mdogo Disabled Children’s Foundation, a registered non-government organization in Uganda, heard about Madinah and her mother. Alongside their volunteers, Mdogo Disabled Children’s Foundation renovated their home and facilities and continues to provide them with food. But they want to do more for these families. Mdogo Disabled Children’s Foundation is building a new facility to give these children exactly what has been denied to them for so long- health services, education, and support for their caretakers.