Note: This article is not appropriate for children.
When witchdoctors want your children’s body parts, you don’t sleep well at night. William and Elizabeth Toen, followers of Christ who live in rural Kenya, have experienced that fear on behalf of three of their five children…all because of the color of their skin.
Neema, age 13, Abegal, age 6, and Ruth, age 2, all suffer with albinism, a rare genetic condition characterized by a complete or partial absence of pigment in one’s skin, hair and eyes. Those with albinism often suffer some degree of visual impairment. All are very susceptible to sunburn.
In Africa, the challenges facing those without skin pigment are even greater. In some places, albinism is considered a curse, and those afflicted with it suffer ridicule, discrimination and violence. That violence can include even murder, because African witchdoctors prize albino body parts for the potency of their alleged magical powers, using them in rituals to bring their clients wealth, health and success.
For example, some fishermen on Africa’s famous Lake Victoria weave albino hair into their nets in hopes of hauling in a big catch. In other places, albino body parts are used in concoctions to divine the location of diamonds. National Geographic estimates that in Tanzania, a complete set of albino body parts is worth $75,000.
This grisly black market has led to the killings of more than 100 adults and children with albinism in the past year alone in Kenya. And since there are no laws against witchcraft in any of the countries in East Africa, the demand for albino body parts continues unchecked. People with albinism live under the dual curse of being both worthless and perversely valuable. William and Elizabeth Toen lived in constant fear for their three special children.
Thanks, however, to contributions to our Christians with Disabilities Fund, Heaven’s Family has been able to help. We’ve paid for the special Toen children to stay at Kapenguria School for the Visually Impaired, something William and Elizabeth, who work as seasonal field laborers, could never afford. At the school, Neema and Abegal (and Ruth when she is old enough) are learning to read and write in Braille, as well as how to navigate their world with their visual handicaps. Every day, both girls enjoy being with other visually impaired children, free of the fear of discrimination and human traffickers. They are also learning how valuable they are to God.
Our Kenyan representative, Cleophas Makona, told us how William and Elizabeth thanked him profusely, with tears streaming down their cheeks, when he last met with them, grateful for the help from Heaven’s Family. We are grateful to be able to serve you and the Toen family, all part of Heaven’s Family!