Understanding Unyama – A Closer Look

My son has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, has severe inattentive type ADHD, sensory integration issues, and a stutter. When he was born, he cried constantly. By the time he was 2, he had not spoken his first word. And when he was in third grade, his school told me they were concerned whether they could accommodate him within the next school year’s program. I began asking questions when he was 15 months old. By 30 months, he was in three types of therapies six days a week. And now, as a rising eighth grader, he’s navigating middle school in the finest learning-differenced school in America.

My son was reading at the high school level by kindergarten. He’s projected to require college level math by ninth grade. And his IQ is three points below “genius”. He does have many challenges, but with those challenges have come inherent and unheard of strengths. I absolutely know how fortunate my family is to have had those who have advocated for my son, and to have had access to the resources to intervene. It’s pretty remarkable to think what the consequences would have been, had we not intervened. 

Every time I see a child with special needs in an emerging country, I see the consequences of a society that cannot intervene.

Recently, I wrote about Unyama, a village in northern Uganda filled with a shocking array of physical and mental handicaps. I’m excited to begin working in these unreached communities and I feel strongly that it’s important for people to understand why I’m excited.

Just this summer, I learned that most of these children are not interacted with or treated the way typical children are. Each time I spoke with a child, our partners told me the child could not understand me or wouldn’t interact with me. It was clear they saw absolutely no reason to connect with these children. However, I was able to show a caretaker that with some effort, non-responsive children like Mercy really can, and will, respond to love and attention.

 I also learned that for most of these children, the day they received their bed was the first and only time in their life they would be taken outside of their mud hut. When I asked whether they even take the children outside into the sunlight, I was resolutely asked “why would we?” But on that day they received their bed, they were necessarily bathed and clothed — efforts and resources never afforded to these children.

For a child like Blessing, who was paralyzed as an infant by malaria, and whose life is spent entirely laying down, she is no longer relegated to a life on the dirt. And I assure you, it’s nothing short of miraculous to have the privilege and opportunity to lay a paralyzed child down on her own bed for the first time.


But the story of the bed goes so much deeper than providing comfort to a disabled child. Giving these forgotten children a bed shows their communities they have value. In fact, when a team of Americans comes such a long distance to spend time with these children, a complete shift in world-view happens among those who care for them. Once, these children were perceived as throw-aways, incapable of contributing to their family or community. Now, they are seen as beautiful and valuable creations of God, worthy of love and attention.

Without that love and attention, all children fail to thrive, especially those who need an extra nudge developmentally.

Showing communities the worth of these children is changing the way they are being cared for. Caretakers are finding community among other parents who also struggle with a disabled child. Children with unique needs are seeing there are others just like them, and are taking comfort in that. And because of a desire to provide a bed for their child, caretakers are openly registering their special needs kids with our in-country partners, who are then providing education and health care services to this forgotten group of children.

So I’m excited to get started with this ministry opportunity to shed light on the least and last, the most forgotten of the most vulnerable children. For the communities of these special needs children, this will change everything.

Just like my son, these children need advocacy, and I need your help to bring that to them.

Next February, we will be providing beds to 800 special needs kids in northern Uganda. My vision is to bring together parents of uniquely challenged children, early intervention specialists, passionate advocates, and those called to the mission field to distribute the beds and to interact with these children in intentional ways that fit their unique needs and abilities. In doing so, I anticipate a revolutionary change will come to those communities, as these forsaken children are brought to light.

Will you join me? A team is forming now and space is limited. Trip dates are February 10 – 19, 2017. Email me at madelene@sweetsleep.org, or message me on Facebook or Instagram and let’s talk.

Can you provide a bed that will evoke change in a disabled child’s life? We need 800 beds at $50 each. Give, knowing 100% of your gift will be delivered directly to these specific children in February. Simply note “special needs” when you give.


Madelene MetcalfUnderstanding Unyama – A Closer Look
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