A Siblings Journey Toward Healing
By the time Tabia was born, the damage to her brother Kennedy’s body was permanent. At just three years old, he contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. Polio vaccines weren’t widely available in Malawi where Kennedy and Tabia were born in the 1960’s. This left children like Kennedy susceptible to the devastating neurological effects of the virus, and the social prejudices that existed against people with disabilities.
Kennedy talks with our team in Malawi about living with a disability.
Tabia grew up witnessing the challenges her brother faced. She heard the unfair and misguided things people said to her parents—that Kennedy was cursed, that his legs were God’s punishment for a family sin. Perhaps Tabia wondered if God’s punishment would someday come for her as well.
Through it all, Tabia remained close to her brother. She got married, had children, and settled in a home across the lane from Kennedy and his wife. They even attended the same church. But as the years went by, Tabia saw how her brother slowly became disillusioned with attending church. No one ever spoke about his earthly difficulties. Tabia and Kennedy dreamed of the day when people in their community would finally begin to accept and acknowledge people with disabilities.
Then, the siblings heard about a new volunteer opportunity at their church. For the first time they could remember, people were being asked to step outside their comfort zone and learn about people with disabilities, to reach out to them and build relationships with them and their caretakers. To connect to those who had lived on the margins of society, and were isolated, lonely, and tired.
The disability ministry offered Kennedy a voice in his church, and it was one of the reasons he returned and began attending regularly. He quickly became a leader not only in his church, but in his community as well.
It also offered Tabia a new way to serve and care for people like her brother. Thanks to a Skills Training scholarship, Tabia attended a vocational school for tailoring.
After she graduated, she quickly worked to apply her new skills in a way that felt right—by making clothing specifically designed for children with disabilities. She does sell some of the clothing she makes to support her family, but she also gives away many items for free. Some of her fellow volunteers joined in the effort by donating their spare cloth and money.
Tabia is soft spoken, thoughtful, and a busy mother and grandmother. She admits that the “speaking” part of volunteering isn’t always in her comfort zone. Sewing clothing for children with disabilities feels like the perfect fit of her God-given skills, passions, and gifts. You can often find her using her sewing machine on her front porch, sometimes surrounded by family members, sometimes alone listening to the sound of her foot-pedaled machine. She loves to see a child wearing one of her creations and can’t wait to make more.
Photos of Tabia working with her sewing machine to produce clothing for young people with disabilities in Malawi.
Since graduating, Tabia estimates that she’s made about 20 pieces of clothing. Recently she gave away a bundle of clothes to Kingdom Workers Malawi to be distributed to other areas of Malawi where there is a need. Tabia and Kennedy know that here on earth there will be difficulties. But volunteer opportunities like this provide them with a way to heal broken and hurting hearts in their community and beyond.