Some have described Kim Kargbo as the modern-day Mother Teresa. Kim grew up in Sierra Leone, West Africa as one of five siblings in a missionary family. Her American family adopted me, an African girl left alone through death, abandonment, and rejection. Kim saw first-hand the poverty and illness many in developing nations face every day. As she grew up, she saw the struggles women with disabilities faced, and she decided to do her part to help.
She created an organization called Accessible Hope to help these poorest of the poor in Sierra Leone. Accessible Hope provides services and resources to help women with disabilities and those who have children with disabilities. That organization has grown to provide help for marginalized people in more than half a dozen countries.
We wanted to find out her thoughts on how moms in economically disadvantaged countries were similar to moms in the developed Western world, how they were different, and how others could honor and appreciate them.
Moms Have the Same Desires
Kim explains that moms all generally have the same fundamental desire for their kids to be safe. They want to do the best they can for their kids and give them the best they have to offer. Moms will sacrifice on behalf of their kids to make sure they have what they need. In some cultures, moms still do the lion’s share of the work around the house. That might be less true in America, but we see this pattern in other parts of the world.
Kim recalls a saying she once heard that if poverty could be overcome with hard work, women in Africa would be the richest people in the world. Unfortunately, hard work does not always overcome poverty. But African moms work very hard and try to do whatever they can to make opportunities for their kids.
One major difference in the women that Accessible Hope serves has to do with ideas and creativity. A mom in America that has average opportunity and means, tends to think quite a bit about what their kid will be when they grow up. That mom is constantly on the lookout for new ways to help their child go in that direction. She looks for ways to introduce and expose her child to new learning opportunities and help him or her figure out new skills.
People who live in poverty don’t have that opportunity. They don’t know what they don’t know. The information they receive is limited, making the amount they can sow into their child also limited. So children in poor countries are often limited in their ability to succeed because their mom has limited information at her disposal.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. There will always be the one-off child prodigy with big, smart ideas. A Sierra Leonean teenager named Kelvin Doe is one of those exceptions. He invents technology from the items he finds in trash heaps. But he’s not the norm.
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Educating Women Helps Everyone
Kim has found an old saying to be true. “If you educate a man, you educate a man, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family and a community.” Research has shown that the level of development of any country is directly correlated to the level of education of the women in that country. She points to the high level of education of women in developed countries and explains that the impoverished countries have women with a low level of education.
This is a side of moms that doesn’t get acknowledged very much. Kim explains that moms are always passing along education and ideas. So, the more ideas and education they have, the more they can pass on to their kids. Most of the women with disabilities who receive services from Accessible Hope have never been to school a day in their lives. They can only pass along what they know. That includes basic farming techniques, stories, life skills, household tasks, traditions, and some small business skills.
Helping Unique Moms
When Kim first opened the doors of her organization, her team immediately faced a couple of common questions. Why not help men with disabilities also? Why women only? Some of the people felt threatened because her group would not help men with disabilities as well. But her team focused specifically on women with disabilities because she knew that if they didn’t, the women would be left out. Men would still get the majority of the benefit and the women would miss out.
For women with disabilities to reach their potential, Kim and her team stood firm and focused solely on women. Otherwise, she knew these precious women and their children would remain on the bottom of the totem pole in this fiercely patriarchal society. The men in Makeni, the city where their headquarters is based, were offended by this decision and accused them of discrimination.
About 3 years after the program began, some of the men came in. They said at first they were very angry that an NGO, or Non-Governmental Organization, would come in and focus only on the well-being of women. But ultimately, the men saw that the community as a whole was benefitting from the work the organization had done with women in Makeni.
Even though the Accessible Hope team received a lot of pushback, Kim held fast because she knew this would be transformational not only for the women with disabilities, but for their communities. The men of the village ended up validating her decision.
How to Honor Unique Moms
Men can help their communities by not feeling threatened when women are succeeding, achieving, and gaining education. To Kim, strong women equals strong families equals strong men and a strong society. Men can nurture women and allow them to take a productive role in society, growing in knowledge and education.
Men who feel threatened by strong women may sometimes keep women suppressed, especially in patriarchal societies in places like Africa. This suppression can be found in both impoverished and in affluent countries. It just looks a little different.
Daughters of the King
Kim says that the primary thing moms around the world need to know is who they are as daughters of the King, because when their identities are rooted in Christ, that will shape the identities of their children. If moms don’t work through their wounds and childhood traumas, they may pass those traumas on to their children. The only thing that can interrupt that pain is the ability to root their identities deeply in Christ.
She wants to make sure everyone understands that there is no intention to keep men and dads out as she discusses these issues. But since moms are being addressed, she emphasizes that it’s important for women of all abilities to know who they are in Christ.
Besides their identity in Christ, moms and women with disabilities should also know their value as women, and what God sees as the value of women. Kim says when a woman does not understand her value as a woman, it’s detrimental to her kids. Moms are key to their children’s identity. She says that’s as true for poor women in Africa, as it is for middle class and wealthy women in developed countries throughout the world.
To learn more about Focus on the Family ministries around the world, visit our Global Outreach webpage.
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