How mentoring changed Shebbie’s life

Shebbie Anyango Odhiambo

Nineteen-year-old Shebbie Anyango Odhiambo has cerebral palsy and autism. She had never been to school when she first came into contact with the Education For Life programme.

The Education for Life programme is run by a team of teachers, mentors and community health workers. The programme is part of our work on the UK Aid funded Girls’ Education Challenge - Leave No Girl Behind programme. It works to help women and girls with disabilities gain the education and skills they need to participate in society fully. 

Leonard Cheshire delivers the programme at catch up centres such as the one at Moro in Nyakach County, Kenya, where the team first met Shebbie. 

Shebbie was not used to the learning environment and initially was very uncomfortable and didn’t know how to interact with other girls at the centre.

But mentors made a special effort to get to know her and help her begin to learn maths and literacy. 

Three people in a garden

Shebbie’s mentor, Mary Orondo, quickly discovered that Shebbie loved skipping and singing while she learned. Mary then used this fun approach to engage with Shebbie, encourage her to interact and learn

“Shebbie is always happy to see me now, and our days are full of fun. She is very lively, and will sing between counting and speaking lessons. What’s more, she has really opened up. She tells me stories now about what she sees from day to day.”

Becoming confident

Shebbie’s parents have also seen a change in her.

Shebbie’s father said: “We are so thankful for the EFL project that has changed Shebbie’s life and ours. You have to remember that schools in our area would not accept her, and that specialist schools were too far away and very expensive. So it is life-changing for us.

It’s wonderful to see her singing, playing, and learning to count,” Shebbie’s mother said. “She talks to us much more, loves to try counting, and is becoming more able to take care of herself.”

The project referred Shebbie for further assessments to be fitted with a wheelchair and orthopaedic shoes to help with her mobility.

Life-changing for other girls in the community too

The EFL project has served as an eye-opener for people who have children with disabilities in Kisumu. Before the project, many families had tried to access local services to help support their children but got nowhere.

This was particularly true for women and girls trying to get dignity kits. These kits include clothes, sanitary towels and other items to help them stay healthy and safe. 

One parent was trying to get a dignity kit for her daughter with a physical disability. She said she had asked the government so many times that it felt like a “futile exercise”. 

Shebbie’s story is just one example of how the right interventions can change the lives of disabled women and girls across an entire community.