Kitui, Kenya Partnership: A Day at St. John Paul II Institute for the Deaf and the Blind

October 6, 2014

Kitui, Kenya Partnership

Today we visited the Kitui Diocese’s St. John Paul II Institute for the Deaf and the Blind.   I was very excited to see the place and visit with the Principal, Joyce Mutwii. My family, and my parish, the Church of St. Joseph, Red Wing, had hosted Joyce two years ago when she visited Minnesota with the Kitui Delegation.  Joyce and I have corresponded by e-mail over these two years and I was very eager to see her again.

When I saw her walk through the door, I  jumped up and rushed to embrace her. What a cherished moment to see her! It was like seeing a long lost sister again.

The Saint John Paul II Institute accepts all ages of children and currently has more than 150 deaf children and 17 who are both deaf and blind. Some have lived here for years.  I was so impressed with the dedication and professional manner of the staff who work with the children.

One of the goals of the program is to help the parents relate to their children. There is such a stigma for having a child who has special needs, and the children are often shunned. Parents visit their children infrequently, perhaps one or two times per year.

We were touched when one of the girls came to us during our visit and asked us if we would like to see them dance – as they said, “Sing with their hands.”  We were utterly amazed to watch these beautiful children who are deaf keep perfect rhythm to the vibration of a drum! And such poise and confidence! It was a treat. I think they were so happy to share with us because someone from the outside was paying attention to them and making them feel valued.

One thing we see a lot here in Kitui is that the Catholic Church is the one organization which does value those who are left behind in society. It has been a beautiful thing to see. It is inspirational and we are grateful to be here and witness it.

Julie Woodruff