Photo credit: The Action Foundation
Photo credit: The Action Foundation

By Maria Omare

June 24, 2024 – In honor of Global Parenting Month, we take a moment to consider the parents and caregivers who carry the joys and burdens of raising children with disabilities. Even under the best of circumstances, parenting a young child with disabilities comes with its own set of unique challenges. The challenges pile up when adding in the complexities of income inequalities, living in rural or informal communities, and single-parent households.

The Action Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Kenya, has been on a remarkable journey of empowering parents and caregivers of children with disabilities. The organization successfully uses a three-pronged approach: providing concrete support and resources, fostering a sense of community that builds resilience and hope, and working to shift public opinions regarding children with disabilities and their families.

Support and Resources

A core pillar of The Action Foundation is to provide a holistic support system for parents and caregivers of children with disabilities. This encompasses practical assistance such as medical referrals, access to specialized therapies, educational resources, and emotional and psychological support.  Sometimes, this work may require one-on-one support, such as assisting parents with completing forms and submitting them to the correct offices. At other times, foundation staff facilitate workshops and training sessions to equip parents and caregivers with the necessary tools to advocate for their children’s rights, access essential services, and navigate the educational system effectively. 

Through training, parents and caregivers learn effective strategies for fostering holistic development and are given tools to independently support their children’s growth and development. The Action Foundation has worked with hundreds of caregivers by providing invaluable education on topics such as healthy nutrition for themselves and their children, specialized care for conditions like cerebral palsy and autism, and fostering nurturing home environments. In addition, the foundation’s community workers equip parents with developmentally appropriate storytelling and play activities that foster literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional skills.

Support from The Action Foundation extends beyond initial assistance. Families working with the foundation receive comprehensive psychosocial and livelihood support. This includes access to trained therapists who help families to develop social-emotional skills, acquire healthier parenting practices, and learn ways to reduce anxiety and depression. Additionally, livelihood support provides parents and caregivers with essential skills to enter the workforce, thereby boosting family income and reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Photo credit: The Action Foundation
Photo credit: The Action Foundation

Community and Support

Beyond providing individual support, The Action Foundation understands the importance of creating a supportive community for parents and caregivers of children with disabilities. Through support groups, parent networking events, and community gatherings, parents and caregivers connect and share experiences with others facing similar challenges. This sense of belonging and camaraderie plays a vital role in reducing isolation, fostering resilience, and promoting emotional well-being among parents and caregivers. Moreover, creating supportive networks and communities enables ongoing progress through mentorship and mutual support. 

Working to Shift Public Opinions

Recognizing and celebrating the achievements and milestones of children with disabilities is an integral part of The Action Foundation’s empowerment approach. By highlighting the successes and capabilities of these children, the foundation aims to challenge stereotypes and promote a more inclusive society. Through events, exhibitions, and awareness campaigns, The Action Foundation showcases the talents and accomplishments of children with disabilities, instilling a sense of pride and confidence in both the children and their parents and caregivers.

The foundation is addressing another key public attitude about parenting: It’s working to increase the number of fathers taking an active role in their children’s well-being. Through this involvement, fathers become change agents in the community. The foundation is focusing on fathers, encouraging them to participate in meetings and events centered on delivering responsive caregiving for children with disabilities. This way, fathers become more involved in their children’s development, subsequently becoming role models, mentors, and advocates within their community.

By adopting a comprehensive approach that addresses the holistic needs of parents and caregivers, The Action Foundation helps transform the lives of families navigating the challenges of raising a child with a disability. Empowering parents and caregivers not only supports individual families but also contributes to a more inclusive and compassionate society, where every child has the opportunity to thrive.

Maria Omare is Founder and Executive Director of The Action Foundation.