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Swahili Backstory: Sanctuary Artists

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Kindness is everything.

Many Kenyan children born with a disability experience life from the sidelines. With few resources available for individuals with disability, these precious little people live in near constant discomfort and rarely feel included or meaningful.

You have granted me life and loving kindness; Your care has preserved my spirit. Job 10:12

Adjusting the view


Since 2007, the Metropolitan Sanctuary for Children with Disability has given a new view to many children in and around the town of Nyeri, located in Kenya's central highlands. Established as a mission from Northern Ireland, the Sanctuary provides an array of free services for children with disabilities and their families. Sanctuary is changing so many lives by approaching this under-served population with creative solutions carried out with local expertise and materials.

Instead of disabled children lying on an old mattress or floor, they are sitting upright, looking around them, postures supported to minimise deformity, feeding better, breathing better, using their hands better...above all, sitting with their families for the first time, which is so important to their quality of life.
-Annabelle Hulbert-Murray, co-founder of Sanctuary Artists

Founded in 2010 by Jolene Allen and Annabelle Hulbert-Murray, Sanctuary Artists operates the innovative ACE (Assistive Cardboard Equipment) workshop. The work at ACE is two-fold. In addition to building rehabilitation equipment using reinforced cardboard, mothers of children with disabilities create handmade paper and small craft items to further fund the project. Sanctuary Artists pulp readily available local vegetation like sugar cane, eucalyptus, banana tree and maize, flowers grown on site, off-cuts of cardboard and old cotton rags to create their beautiful handmade paper.

To date, more than 1250 items have been crafted at the ACE workshop and given for free to children with special physical needs. This improvement in the children's quality of life is immeasurable. Outreach events and fundraisers in Nyeri encourage the community to accept and embrace children with disabilities as valuable members of the community. Their smiles say it all!

While Pastor Jason Allen ministers to the Nyeri community through the Metropolitan Tabernacle Church and oversees construction projects, his wife Jolene manages the Sanctuary and serves as an on-site occupational therapist, fitting each child individually according to their unique need for support. Committed to further expanding rehabilitative opportunities in Kenya, the Allens and their growing family have made Nyeri their second home.

In addition to free personalized equipment, Sanctuary also provides a free walk-in medical clinic three days a week, home visits to children with disabilities, physical and occupational therapy, a free day care center for children who would otherwise be locked at home all day and a rescue center where abused, abandoned or orphaned children with disabilities receive a second chance at life.

Sanctuary's services are funded in part by the UK-based non-profit Befrienders for Disability, as well as Kenyan-based fundraising organization Smile Dispatch and sales of Sanctuary Artists products. When we were introduced to Sanctuary Arts holiday ornaments last year, we knew we had to help bring energy and resources from the United States to Sanctuary.

Sanctuary Artists and Befrienders for Disability encourage creatives from around the world to visit the center, share ideas and help ensure a brighter future for thousands of Kenyans with disabilities still waiting to be served. By pouring all their love onto a forgotten population, the beautiful souls of Sanctuary are showing children with disabilities how much they truly matter.

See Sanctuary Artists Handmade Cards & Ornaments
Photo Credit: All Kenyan photographs are the property of Sanctuary Artists.

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