The story behind ‘The Promise’
Senait, a graduate of the University of Asmara who speaks Tigrinya, Amharic and English, gave birth to her son Aaron, in 2003 and trekked through three continents in pursuit of the care and treatment he needed.
Immediately after his birth baby Aaron went into coma for 10 days in the hospital of Asmara. The doctors were unable to diagnose his condition and just kept saying, ‘He’s sick.’ Even after 10 days of being comatose, there were no answers. They recommended a CT scan, but the only CT scanner in Asmara was broken and it wasn’t going to be repaired at that time. Loved ones counseled her to ‘leave things to God’.
Senait understood the importance of getting the right diagnosis. With the advice from a family friend doctor and with the financial support of friends, both mother and son flew to Dalian, China in 2004 in pursuit of a diagnosis and treatment for four-month old Aaron. After one day there she learned the bitter truth that her son had a severe form of cerebral palsy. The doctor warned her Aaron might never walk or talk.
After traveling back and forth between China and Eritrea in search of solutions in 2005 and again in 2006, Senait realized there was little hope for Aaron’s future in Eritrea. Not only she learned there were no resources and services for Aaron in East Africa but the stigma around disability and shame was unbearable. In Eritrea, you hide such kids. He would have been stuck at home lying in bed babbling, and people would come and pity him. She did not want that for her son. Under these conditions she knew Aaron would not have had a life at all.
That’s when Senait started the process of moving to the USA with her son to provide him with the quality of life she believed he deserved. With luck on their side, Senait won the diversity lottery visa and moved to California in 2007. Aaron, accompanied by his grandfather, followed in July 2008.
While processing their visas, Senait spoke with people from the NGOs and UN agencies she had previously worked for and questioned why services for children with disabilities in Eritrea were so limited. Before she left Eritrea to begin her new life in the United States, Senait met with many families who had special needs children or siblings and were struggling, be it financially, or emotionally.
In the United States Senait has been able to capitalize on the services, equipment and therapies available to help Aaron, whose condition confines him to wheelchair and it's complicated by some blindness and daily seizures. The medical and social resources available have helped Aaron progress and live with greater comfort.
When Senait left Eritrea, she understood her focus was to pursue a future for Aaron, so he could live comfortably and receive the services he needed. One day, before leaving, Senait looked into her son’s eyes and made the ‘promise’; that one day after they ‘got their life together’ in the United States, she would do something for special needs children and their families in Eritrea.