Whilst in Botswana, we met a young girl named Leina. Leina is 3 years old who lives in a small village in the Okavango Delta with her parents, grandparents and siblings. She was initially introduced to us as “the disabled child of the village” as she was unable to walk due to what appeared to be a congenital foot malformation. Leina’s movements around her house and village were restricted by walking on her knees, and there was significant muscle atrophy in her calves.
We spoke to the local guide and asked him if it would be appropriate to offer our assistance and take a look at Leina and her legs. Once consent was gained from her parents and Leina herself (through the local guide translating and explaining what we wanted to do), it was established that there is a good chance she may be able to walk with the support of appropriate equipment.
Leina’s parents, the local guide and our tour guide all requested any help we could offer. It was explained to us lots of tour groups drop off sweets and books but this does not help her to move about like her siblings and peers. In discussion with the group and Leina’s parents, it was agreed that equipment could be utilised to support Leina walk and interact more with her peers. Given the terrain and availability of resources (not just physical resources, but also the ability to monitor her progress and ensure that she was safe with whichever equipment was provided), the most appropriate piece of equipment would be a walking frame. We have had previous experience building a wheelchair out of piping and we explained that with a trip to the local hardware store we should be able to whip something up in the afternoon.
We were able to source shin pads to protect her knees while she is learning to walk (as walking on her knees is her current mode of moving around), and were able to build a walking frame out of copper piping. What was special was that it was not just one person helping, but everyone wanted to be involved. The tour guide arranged the materials, the tour group purchased the materials, the camp site management organised two workers to cut and weld, as well as transport to and from the village, and the village got behind and were supporting the family. It really does take a village to raise, and support, a child.
As a group we decided from the beginning that we did not want to just support Leina and her village for one day. Our overall goal is for Leina to be able to access education with her peers. We hope that we can continue to be involved with Leina and her community, and support the whole village in their journey.
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On The Go Tours, who we toured through have shared Leina’s story here.