Some Closing Thoughts
Why Do We See More Disabled Boys than Girls?
Of the children who attended our workshops, more than two thirds were boys. This was not due to preferential selection by the coordinators. Rather, there simply appears to be more disabled boys than girls. Many mediators wondered why, and no one had a very good answer.
One reason may be that certain genetic disabilities (like my own) occur only in males. But there may also be more ominous causes. Some of the mediators thought that perhaps they didn’t see as many of the disabled girls because the families kept them hidden away, and were less likely to seek assistance for them. In India, for example, many girl babies with impairments are simply left to die. Boy babies are better cared for and more likely to survive.
Building on What was Learned in the Colombia Workshops
Although it is hard to know to what extent those things that were learned in the workshop will be used on an ongoing basis, anecdotal evidence suggests that the benefits could be far reaching. The energy and pluck of many of the impoverished families there amazed me. The mothers of many of the children we visited were small and scrawny.
It seemed impossible that they would find means to carry their disabled child down the hundreds of steps and then find transport to bring them to our workshop. Yet the morning of the workshop, all eight disabled children, with their mother or father or sometimes both, showed up by 8:00 AM, and eagerly joined in the production of assistive devices for their children together with mediators of Stichting Liliane Fonds.
Hardship and the struggle to survive against crushing odds sometimes seem to bring out the best in people. Time and again I was amazed by the unstinting love and caring that parents bestowed on their disabled children. Day after day and year after year. Willingly. Gladly. Proudly.
Yet the extent of squalor and dire living conditions of the myriads of poor families crammed into makeshift huts on the steep slopes flanking the opulent urban center is deeply distressing. Human beings shouldn’t have to live in the kind of deprivation I witnessed!
Clearly, better use of technology is part of the solution. But if we are to give these children a fair chance, we have to also look at the social and political context in which they live. We must address the need to create a peaceful and sustainable world where land, opportunities, and power are distributed more equitably; where everyone’s basic needs and rights are met; where the strong no longer take advantage of the weak; and where we learn to live in harmonious balance, with one another and with the environment, for the common good of all.