Enable the Children

Poor health care contributes to high rates of physical and mental disability. Widespread misunderstanding and stigma make children with disabilities especially vulnerable and seen as a curse.

Project Information

Project Status: Active
Start Date: 2016
End Date: Ongoing
Countries: Sierra Leone

No Poverty Good Health and Well-Being Quality Education  Decent Work & Economic Growth
Reduced Inequalities

Supporting children living with disabilities

Poor health care contributes to high rates of physical and mental disability in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, a widespread cultural misunderstanding of disability, complicated by the lack of health care or other public support services, makes children living with physical and mental disabilities some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

Extensive poverty, traditional beliefs, and illiteracy often leave the affected children rejected or abandoned and seen as a curse on their family.

That’s where WHI’s Enable the Children (ETC) program comes in. ETC is a team of local and expatriate staff who have provided Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, care, and support services to over 1,000 children living with disabilities in Freetown, Sierra Leone. More than half of the children enrolled in ETC suffer from cerebral palsy; others cope with acquired brain injury, muscular dystrophy, orthopedic challenges, and many more. Children with Down syndrome or autism also face discrimination and limited opportunities. 

Improving the Lives of Child Amputees

Since 2018, Enable the Children has made an intentional effort to improve the lives of child amputees through World Hope International. Partnering with Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope (ELOH) out of the UK, our investment in this area continues to grow each year. Together, we recognized the impact that could be achieved with these children when they and their families were supported with holistic care from the team. With the generous support of ELOH, we have been able to provide needed surgeries and prosthetics so that the children are able to better move and interact in daily life. Additionally, we have supported them with school fees and regular home visits to ensure that they have the best opportunities for success. Beginning with 15 children in 2018, the number of child amputees in the care of ETC has grown to 25 in 2023. One child is currently attending university in Sierra Leone while another child was able to participate in the Toyko Paralympic Games in 2021 after being spotted at an ETC sports event. We are grateful for success of the children and are excited about their future endeavors to rise above their own challenges.

Project Goals
  1. To enable children living with disabilities to be included, loved, and valued in their families and communities, ensuring a good quality of life
  2. To empower families and communities to provide the necessary physical and developmental support so that their children living with disabilities can have a good quality of life
Expected Outcomes
  • Decreased discrimination against children and adults living with disabilities
  • Families and caregivers trained to support children with disabilities using play, developmental positioning, and feeding support
  • Strengthened community and national support for families with children living with a disability
  • School and employment opportunities accessible to the children and their families

Rehabilitation therapists were trained on in-home based therapy exercises

Children with disabilities were provided with specialized equipment to help improve functional ability in 2019

Children were provided with home visits

How It Works

ETC staff visit patients in their homes and teaches families and caregivers how to support children with disabilities using play, developmental positioning, and feeding support. This allows families the opportunity to learn to provide at-home care and treatment to children in a manner that is sustainable in their everyday lives. ETC also provides support for the family unit as they learn to look after the child and provide a loving, nurturing home life. As cultural beliefs lead many mothers to place blame upon themselves when a child is born with a disability, ETC works with mothers so they understand each child’s medical case and to reassure parents that they’ve done nothing wrong. ETC also addresses large-scale stigma in the communities and helps families connect with and support one another.

Additionally, ETC’s school sponsorship initiative supports school fees and uniforms, which afford children the otherwise unlikely opportunity to attend school. The program also provides small-business start-up grants to families who’ve had to change their pattern of work to allow for care to be provided for the child at home. Finally, ETC works with local carpenters, tailors, and technicians to provide specialized equipment for patients.

Zemillia’s Autism Journey

Follow little Zemillia’s progress from struggle to success with the support of the Enable the Children program in Sierra Leone.

Enable the Children: Destigmatising Children with Disabilities

Discover how Enable the Children empowers children with disabilities in Sierra Leone. Join us in breaking stigmas and creating acceptance.

Learning to Love – One father at a time

Discover how World Hope is reshaping societal norms as we empower men to become nurturing fathers and supportive spouses, one transformative step at a time.

Turning the Tide in Sierra Leone

How an annual beach day outing with Enable the Children became a movement that is changing the way this West African country views people with disabilities.

Creating global families and expanding world views through Child Sponsorship

Learn from long-time sponsors, The Gethings, how child sponsorship is a transformative two-way street for families.