Written By Rosemary McAleer
I met Saidi on our very first day when we visited the school. He is a young man of 13 years. At the school the children had just completed their 10am porridge and were preparing to go back to their classrooms. Saidi came up to me with a plastic cup half full of black gruel, I later learned this was Ugi and part of the staple Kenyan diet, Dear God was I going to have to drink it. Saidi watched with a grin! I smiled, thanked him and put the cup to my lips. I managed to lick my lips and nod as I handed it back to him. He looked at the cup, shuck his head and went off laughing. He was what we Irish would call a boyo. It was too late. He stole my heart.
Mary told me about Saidi’s background, he suffered from seizures and the local people & his family were convinced he was possessed by evil spirits and thought by beating him the spirits would leave. This supernatural view has dominated thinking about epilepsy until quite recently. It is not that very long ago when the people of Ireland would have done the same. I recall at school there were undertones of this thinking. When he got beaten Saidi would head off into the bush for days, no one looked about him, no one knew where he went. After seeing him having a seizure at the local Feeding Station one Sunday, Kevin & Mary brought him back to his family home, both is mother & grandmother told them to take him away as he was the devil. After liaising with the Department of Children Saidi was taken into the Good Life Orphanage for his own safety.
Since coming to the orphanage Saidi is having problems adjusting, he has mood swings, refuses to take his medication at times and will lash out when things get out of control. He is behind in his school work which means he is in a lower class than his peers. His language skills are poor; he uses hand signing a lot. He is a loner who craves attention. For the two weeks I tried to give him a bit of that but it was difficult to know if this was the correct thing to do or not. I took him with me into town one day. He came out of his house dressed like a Hollywood film star. He had the sunglasses on, the belt in the jeans, the swagger. He had it all. In town Saidi kept close by me, he didn’t speak very much but looked and pointed and smiled. “What do you want in town Saidi” Soda was his answer. So he got some coke and some sweets. He was happy. Now he could go back to the orphanage and show off.
When it came to singing and dancing Saidi came out of his shell. At night the preteens got together and practiced their signing and dance routines. It was lovely. The nights were still and hot, the childrens voices rhythmic and joyful filled the air. Lorraine and I would join them and soon we were able to complete their routines but not nearly as good as the children. I think they tolerated us. It was during this time that Saidi really enjoyed himself and felt an equal to the other children in his age group . He danced and sang his heart out with the rest. He had his part to play and he done it. It was wonderful and you could not wish for a better environment for him than this. Folllowing our visit there was a child psychologist coming to volunteer to the orphanage. I do hope she manages to help Saidi.