For four years now, Sr Yvonne Mwalula Mwila of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary has served as the Director of the Bauleni Special Needs Project and School (BSNP) in Lusaka, Zambia. The school, which opened its doors in 1996, is recognised as a Centre of Excellence for inclusive, special needs education in Zambia and is also the only school in the country to provide education and support to children who are both deaf and blind. Bauleni is a very poor and densely populated area of Lusaka where few other schools provide any kind of education or support options for the many disabled, orphaned and vulnerable children. “We are welcoming to all children and our work makes a big difference in their lives,” she says. “Most of the children we have here cannot be placed in other schools around Lusaka.”
The school also provides support to parents and families of children with disabilities, and trains youth in job skills to help them build a secure future. The promotion of child safeguarding and the rights of children, especially those with disabilities and special needs, is a crucial aspect of the school’s mission. A home-based programme for severely disabled children in the area has brought hope to families formerly suffering with no support but whose children are now receiving care for their developmental needs.
“We are welcoming to all children and our work makes a big difference in their lives,” she says. “Most of the children we have here cannot be placed in other schools around Lusaka.”Sr Yvonne Mwalula Mwila
The holistic approach of the school is emblematic of missionary development work, placing an importance on upholding the essential dignity of all human beings. “Everyone can teach or do work in the community with vulnerable people. For me though, what makes missionary work different is the compassionate way that we work with people, that extra mile that we put into everything we do for the students here,” she says. “The work we do cannot be put in monetary terms, it’s so much more than that. It’s also the psychosocial and spiritual support we give the children and their families. At Bauleni, some our children are here with us 24/7. It’s another home for them. We create a space where they can really feel at home.”