On the front lines of relief work in Africa, Margaret Njuguna was troubled by the sight of children and adults living with disabilities left to fend for themselves in the cities and villages she visited.
In response, the 1994 Calvin College graduate founded En-Gedi Home for Children in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, a place that rescues children with severe disabilities.
“These are children that a lot of people don’t like, including their own parents,” she said. “We run a rescue ministry to help children escape from confinement and neglect and to save children who have been left in the jungle to be eaten by hyenas. It is a call God gave me.”
Njuguna currently has 12 children in her home; none of them can walk, and just one of them can talk.
En-Gedi is almost three years old, begun after Njuguna spent the previous 27 years in the employ of World Renew, the global relief ministry of the Christian Reformed Church.
Njuguna was trained in Africa as a finance and administrative manager—doing office work—in World Renew’s Kenya and Uganda offices.
But she wanted to do something more. In those years, she met many Calvin alumni employed by the organization, and an alumna convinced her that Calvin College was an option.
“I came to Calvin and can say that it was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I learned that all people, regardless of their backgrounds, are made by God. Every human being is made in the image of Christ.”
After graduating, Njuguna returned to Africa for World Renew. In time, however, the call to advocate for people with disabilities led her to a new ministry.
“I wanted to find out why people would hide children with disabilities, why they would want to sacrifice them, why they would want to neglect such children to death,” she said.
In Kenyan culture, many people believe that having a child with disabilities is a curse or related to witchcraft—the children have been bewitched.
It is her challenge to diminish the hold that superstition has on families who have children with disabilities, to help them see the image of God in their children rather than an evil spirit.
“It is a dark world,” she said. “When I got started, I told God that I want to be a channel through which he can shine his light into the world of darkness.”
For more about Njuguna’s work, seeen-gedichildrenwithhope.org. To see a video about her work, visit calvin.edu/offices-services/alumni-association/awards.