National

Christian doctor from Wakayama offers hope to disabled kids in Kenya

Kyodo

Japanese pediatrician Kazuko Kumon works to provide support for children with disabilities and their families in Kenya.

At The Garden of Siloam, a facility Kumon established on the outskirts of Nairobi, disabled children receive a range of support, from high-quality education to personalized health care.

Kumon, a 47-year-old Christian and native of Wakayama Prefecture, said she was motivated by her experiences in Sierra Leone some 15 years earlier.

When she visited the civil war-stricken West African country in 2001, she saw children dying every day, leaving her wondering how she could live a meaningful life and make a difference in the world.

After working at a hospital in Cambodia, the doctor moved to Kenya, where she found a job at a clinic in 2002.

As she continued to ask herself the same question about life for more than 10 years in Kenya, Kumon came to think about what she could do specifically for children with disabilities.

In Africa, like many other regions, disabled people struggle to receive sufficient support amid persistent prejudice and discrimination.

Many poor children with disabilities in Kenya are also left without proper medical care and education.

“I thought that focusing my mind on the life of each child would lead to saving many lives,” Kumon said, referring to her motives for establishing the facility.

Managing The Garden on Siloam is not easy, as it mainly relies on donations from Japan. It is also difficult to find qualified staff, the doctor said.

Still, the facility has accepted nearly 30 children so far. “I can see the children and their families look happier after spending a short period of time” at the facility, Kumon said.

Amid Kenya’s ongoing economic growth in recent years, Kumon believes that “it’s important to create a society in which the disabled and others can coexist.”