In the slums of Burkina Faso, new mother Florence was forced to watch helplessly as a disease took her son’s sight. As a single mother living in poverty, she was unable to afford a visit to the doctor, and Kader lost his vision just before his fifth birthday.

“I was powerless and felt desperate as I watched my son have difficulties seeing from an early age,” Florence shares. “I thought it was finished for Kader, because he would not be able to play with his friends or go to school.”

Sadly, Florence’s prediction was in line with the reality that exists for many disabled children around the world. According to UNICEF, nearly 50 per cent of the almost 93 million children living with disabilities worldwide are not in school. Compare this with just 13 per cent of their non-disabled peers.

Kader is wearing a blue, white, and green patterned shirt, blue pants, and a black back pack. He is sitting outside his school on a green bench.

But things changed for Kader when he was registered into Compassion’s child sponsorship program at age eight. Suddenly, Kader had access to healthcare, education and activities offered through the Compassion child development centre at a local church in his community, as well as the support of caring Compassion staff.

“My favourite subjects are history and geography because I can learn about past events to understand the present and prepare for the future.” 

– Kader

Through his Compassion centre’s partnership with a local school for the blind, Kader gained access to a high-quality education. At his new school, Kader began to thrive. “Kader is a genius,” his teacher, Nana, says. “He is not only the best, but he is an excellent student every teacher would love to have in their classroom.”

Kader is wearing a blue, white, and green patterned shirt. He is standing in his classroom with his teacher, Nana, who is wearing brown pants with a pink and blue patterned shirt. They are standing at a desk in front of a yellow wall.

Kader with his teacher, Nana, in their classroom.

“I am happy to be able to read and write in braille. My favourite subjects are history and geography because I can learn about past events to understand the present and prepare for the future. I also love to play ball with my best friend Eric at school,” Kader shares.

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed Kader’s school, he resolved to continue his studies. “I brought my books home so I could keep on learning during the quarantine. That is why I didn’t forget the lessons and I was rather well prepared for the final exams,” he says.

During the pandemic, Kader’s family has also received consistent support from Compassion, ensuring his family didn’t fall through the cracks while his mother was unable to work. Centre staff delivered food packages and he also received an additional gift from his sponsor. It all made a huge difference for Kader as he worked to focus on his studies in a time of immense uncertainty.

Kader is wearing a blue, white, and green patterned shirt, blue pants, and a black back pack. He is standing with two members of Compassion staff. They are standing outside Kader's school.

Kader with two staff members from his Compassion centre.

In July 2020, Kader wrote the primary school certificate exams to graduate from grade six. Afterwards, he felt confident about his results, but he never could’ve imagined what would happen next. When the exam scores were released, Kader discovered he had been awarded a remarkable 8.75 out of 10, making him the top student among all visually impaired students in Burkina Faso!

“I want to tell those living with a disability that God loves them, and they can do even greater things.”

– Kader

The community around Kader was thrilled—his friends, teachers, Compassion centre staff and family were all incredibly proud. Beyond the congratulations of his community, Kader also soon found out that he would receive a commendation from Burkina Faso’s President! He had the honour of attending a recognition ceremony organized by the government, where he received the President’s Prize and the warm congratulations of the country.

Kader is wearing a blue shirt. He is standing outside his school and is holding up a certificate he received from the president. Kader's school is brown and has green doors.

“I was very happy,” Kader says.

Florence is incredibly proud of her son and no longer worries about the barriers that visually impaired children like Kader face. “I am overwhelmed that Kader visited the President thanks to his good work at school,” she says. “As a mother, I feel so blessed and honoured that the country leadership has recognized my son’s efforts. I pray that he continues to shine like a star in a dark sky.”

Kader is wearing a blue shirt and yellow patterned pants. He is sitting outside his school next to his mother, Florence, wearing a blue, white, and green dress. They are holding Kader's certificate he received from the president.

Kader and his mother Florence hold up his President’s Prize certificate.

For Kader, this experience has served as fresh motivation, especially to encourage fellow children living with disabilities to never give up. “I want to tell those living with a disability that God loves them, and they can do even greater things,” he says.

Kader is wearing a blue and black shirt. He is sitting at a desk in his classroom and has his hands on a Braille Bible in front of him. The wall behind him is yellow.

Kader, with his braille Bible on the desk in front of him.

As he plans for the future, Kader has big dreams. “I want to become a lawyer to judge people with integrity and justice.” As he continues to focus on his studies, he believes that God will make a way for him, as it says in his favourite Bible verse, which he reads often in his braille Bible: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

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Photos and field reporting by Jehojakim Sangare

Written by: Alyssa Esparaz

Alyssa is Compassion Canada's Manager of Content and Public Relations, telling stories that inspire and equip the Church to live compassionate lifestyles. She is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, where she studied International Development.