Simon Njenga, HI occupational therapist, during a rehabilitation session with Elizabeth Abiel at Rehabilitation Center 1 in Kakuma, Kenya. | © Patrick Meinhardt / HI
Simon Njenga tells us about his daily life as a paediatrics rehabilitation officer at the Kakuma Rehabilitation Centre in Kenya.
While he was working with the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya in Nairobi, Simon used to meet HI staff in the field. In 2017, he made the decision to seek for a working opportunity in HI. For him, it was important to have a job that offered opportunity to serve persons with disabilities.
After applying three times, his perseverance and passion led to him being hired by the organization. Simon has now been working for HI for five years as a rehabilitation officer and occupational therapist at Kakuma refugee camp.
“I am very proud to be working with HI. I applied for the job three times because this was what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to help and support people with disabilities, especially children. After 5 years of working, the passion is still there, I have to continue.”
As paediatrics rehabilitation officer and occupational therapist, Simon provides specialized care and support to children with disabilities and delayed developmental milestones. He conducts assessments and evaluations at the centre and at community level. Simon comes up with a rehabilitation intervention plan for each child, together with the caregivers who accompany the children, to improve their motor skills, cognitive abilities, selfcare and independence.
Simon has been involved with some children since birth. In addition, he also plays a very important role with parents and caregivers. Indeed, at the Kakuma centre, parents accompany their children. First, they are accompanied to accept their children’s disabilities and then they are trained on basic rehabilitation skills. During these sessions, Simon train the parents on how to conduct basic rehabilitation activities with their children. This allows them to play an active role in the rehabilitation of their children and not to be excluded from the rehabilitation process.
Simon also works in the outreach programme: a programme that involves reaching out to children who are far from the rehabilitation centres. Once assessment and evaluation are done, Simon develops a treatment plan together with the parents and rehabilitation centre workers, to achieve the rehabilitation goals.
Like everyone else, Simon has encountered challenges in his work. The challenges include the distance between the rehabilitation centre and people's homes. Some people want to go to the centre to benefit from specialized services, but they are not able to get there. The second challenge Simon faces is the follow-up of the refugees supported by the organization. Indeed, it has happened that some refugees supported by HI return to their country of origin through repatriation or relocate to other camps. In this case, it is not possible to find them and to continue to do the follow-up since some of them have no telephone. But every day, Simon does his best to overcome these challenges.
Working in the refugee camp has offered Simon with opportunity for personally and professional growth, development of many skills, experience and deeper understanding of the unique challenges faced by the people living in the refugee camps.
Hope was born with clubfoot, with both feet turned completely inwards. On her first visit to the rehabilitation centre in 2019, she was diagnosed by the HI team. An assessment was done and her feet were put in a cast.
Simon has been caring for Hope since her arrival at the centre. The girl has regularly received a new corrective cast, manipulation and bracing for several months. During this first stage of treatment, Simon had to manipulate the baby's very fragile bones and put on a series of casts to correct her deformities. Hope's feet were healed with this corrective treatment, which over time will allow her to achieve near straight alignment of the bones and muscles of the foot.