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Plight Of The Disabled Poor



Most Americans today are curbing their excesses, avoiding risks, and grumbling about falling victim to this recession. Now consider the contrast revealed through Richard (Dick) Bransford, a featured speaker at the Exploring Medical Missions Conference on May 29-30: “The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been in civil war for years. I knew there would be a lot of neglected little kids. Some would have club feet, burn contractures, hydrocephalus, hip dysplasia, spinal deformities, cerebral palsy, and polio. Honestly, I wanted to see how I could help and if my skills could be of use to the people.”


The risks were startling. Some 5 million have died in the DRC’s civil war, no one would pay him to serve there, and he would practice medicine under appalling conditions. Dr. Bransford reflected while waiting at the airport, “I know that I am not too good at passing a kid by. That is one of my weaknesses.”


Selfless compassion is not only his “weakness”, it’s his lifestyle, too. In 1975, fresh out of surgery training and Air Force service, Dr. Bransford joined African Inland Mission (AIM). He and his wife Millie lived and labored together in the DRC, Comoro Islands, and at Kenya’s Kijabe Hospital. In 1998, Dr. Bransford’s love for kids developed into his vision as he became leader of Bethany Crippled Children’s Centre in Kenya.


In Kenya and the DRC, like most low-income nations, physical disabilities are an enormous challenge. Birth defects, such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy, occur more commonly than in wealthy nations. Acquired disabilities, like those resulting from burns and head trauma, occur much more frequently. As many as 80 percent of all disabled persons in the world live in isolated rural areas of developing nations. In some of these nations, the disabled population is estimated to be as high as 20 percent (UN document A/37/51).


Yet appropriate care for these precious individuals is extremely slim or only available for those who can pay. So, some 97 percent of disabled children in low-income nations receive no form of rehabilitation and 98 percent go without any education. Families and communities often compound their children’s plight by rejecting them during the critical years when they are physically and emotionally most vulnerable.


Answering the plight of the disabled poor begins with a spirit of noble compassion. Dr. Bransford concludes, “At 68 I have found that God has given me the desires of my heart. I am a surgeon working with disabled children and utilizing these gifts to heal, to open spiritual doors, and to protect disabled children throughout Africa.”

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