Gigi Stoll: The Daisy School, Kakamega, Kenya 2012 (Part 3)

Gigi Stoll, who we’ve previously featured in our Leica Portrait video series, is the official photographer for ISMS Operation Kids. This is the third entry in Gigi’s latest series about her work with ISMS. She shares images from her recent trip and talks about what the team found at Daisy Special School in Kenya.

Writing as the official photographer for ISMS Operation Kids, I am once again proud of our team who traveled to Kenya for a second year in a row. During our pediatric medical mission in Kakamega, our team was made aware of an orphanage that served as a boarding school for severely disabled children. One afternoon, I was able to visit the site with our team director: Colleen Hekemian. We found many children in desperate need of the team’s care – especially children who were severely disabled by their clubfeet.

Daisy Special School was started by Reverend Perti and Heidi Soderland, a missionary couple from Finland whose passion for children with physical challenges was inspired by their daughter, Daisy, who is physically challenged. The school opened on September 4, 1995 with additional sponsorship from the Full Gospel Churches of Kenya. Daisy School is a mixed day and boarding primary school that caters to children with and without mental and physical handicaps. The school currently teaches 292 children, and employs 17 teachers, 13 staff members and a vocational trainer.

The school offers a variety of curriculums in order to teach each student to be the best of their abilities. There is a ‘special school’ for students who have multiple handicaps and are unable to keep up with the curriculum of the standard primary school. In these classes students learn the basics of counting, writing, hygiene and life skills. If the child cannot keep up in standard classes, the school offers a vocational program whereby students can learn sewing, farming, and household chores. There is also a physical therapy center that the helps children with physical disabilities function to the best of their abilities.

Due to their unique conditions, many children require routine medical care relating to sustained injuries as a result of limited mobility or accidents. Depending on the severity of these injuries, the children must be cared for by the available staff or be taken to the hospital for further treatment. The Centre currently lacks trained on-site medical staff.

In Kenya there is still an enormous stigma against persons with handicaps. Because of this, many of these children have faced severe discrimination, maltreatment, and even abuse from their communities and families before coming to the Centre. As a result, many have been left with overwhelming emotional and social adjustment problems that the Centre seeks to overcome with constant love and support.

I was very impressed by the camaraderie between the children. If a child was having trouble getting up the stairs, another child immediately helped out. And if a child still seemed hungry after lunch, another one shared their plate.

Unfortunately our team had run out of time when we found these children, BUT we made a promise … ISMS Operation Kids will return in 2014 to take care of the children we left behind.

-Gigi Stoll

You can see more of Gigi’s work on her website, www.gigistoll.com. You can also connect with Gigi on her Facebook page and on Twitter. Learn more about ISMS Operation Kids on their website and Facebook page.