A disabled girl was considered worthless, until she was noticed by someone outside her family.
Inside a ‘tukol’, a typical South Sudanese clay home, a young baby was left to sleep as her mother went to run some errands.
When six-month-old Imanya woke up alone, she became distressed and went searching for her mum. As she was crawling in the tukol, she somehow stumbled into the cooking fire. Her feet became so badly burnt, that the staffat Tori Hospital could do nothing to save them.
In traditional South Sudanese culture, a girl is seen as a blessing because of the large dowry paid to her family once she is married. However, a disabled person is regarded with disrespect and shame. Imanya suddenly became a ‘burden’ to her mother, and was kept inside, scolded and beaten.
‘Her feet were so severely burnt that the staff at Tori Hospital could do nothing to save them.’
A few years later, Joseph Gamara, the founder of Airport View Primary School, was walking past the house, when he heard the little girl being scolded by her mother and told that she was useless.
Profoundly moved, Joseph decided to get involved. Over the next few years, he began encouraging the family to accept their daughter and to see her as a child of God. He suggested that Imanya start going to school, and that she could attend his own Airport View Primary School in Torit. The family agreed and, for the first time in her life, Imanya was allowed to play with other children.
Airport View Primary school has a countercultural vision that works to transform the surrounding communities through education and the Word of God. Many of the pupils at the school are orphans, children with disabilities, and girls with little chance of education. Yet, the performance of the school is the best in Eastern Equatoria!
“Just as Jesus was a teacher,” Joseph explains, “we want to follow His example to teach people about God and life.”
‘…for the first time in her life, Imanya was allowed to play with other children.’
Imanya was able to join the other 1,563 children enrolled at Joseph Gamara’s school, but her story does not end here. Contacting a clinic in Juba, Joseph applied to a Red Cross project which provides prosthetic limbs for children.
Finally, in 2018, MAF had the privilege of flying Joseph and Imanya to Juba to get her new prosthetic feet fitted. Imanya was all smiles as she sat in the pilot’s seat of the MAF aircraft, before heading back to the school in Torit.
Imanya first began to walk around the school yard, with her new feet and crutches, and a tricycle was bought so she could be pushed to school from her house. But now, aged six, Imanya refuses to even use crutches, and joyously walks the 500-metre journey to school!
“Praise be to God that we are able to help little Imanya to realise that she is created in the image of God. God answered her prayers, through the school (and) together with an MAF South Sudan flight. Thank you, MAF, for your wonderful and good work…” – Gamara Joseph Servilio
Millions of people cannot access basic medical care, clean water, food or education, simply because it’s too dangerous or time-consuming to reach them. Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) provides flights for over 1,500 aid, development and mission organisations, to enable the world’s remotest people to access the essentials they need to survive.
Every four minutes, an MAF plane takes off or lands in 27 developing countries, flying help, hope and healing to some of the remotest places on earth. Request an MAF speaker to your church, work or small group this year to hear more about our life-transforming work. Call 01303 851 955 or visit: www.maf-uk.org/keepthefaith.
Story by Thorkild Jorgensen
Photos by Nelson Deng