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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Albinos, Magic and Mormons

Since I read widely I've been aware of the plight of albinos in Africa for some time. But, a recent article "Utah woman working to save African albino children" highlights a way to help rather than just sympathize with their plight. Koins for Kenya is setting up special school for albino children where they can learn and grow in safety.


In short, some in Africa believe that albino body parts are magic. This results in an extensive black market. Although albino bodies are sometimes fully encased in concrete before burial to discourage pilfering their graves, it isn't just the dead who are at risk. Albinos are in constant danger of people murdering them for their body parts or even having them hacked off while still alive. Albino body parts are worth thousands. The article above suggests as much as $10,000 for an albino child. That is a staggering amount for anything on the African continent.


In addition, mothers who bear albino children are thought to have cheated on their husbands putting their own lives in danger as well as that of the children. They are generally divorced or abandoned in addition to being ostracized by others.


Albino skin is no protection against the African sun which brings sunburn and other miseries to those afflicted. So, sunscreen and other protections are crucial.

In the United States, one child out of 20,000 is born without pigmentation in his or her skin.
In Kenya, the number is much higher because it’s a recessive gene, and there’s much more intermarriage.

After witnessing the misery a Mormon woman, Jami Quesenberry, has devoted herself to alleviating their plight. A special school has been set up for albino children. Quesenberry is working with others including an Alpine (Utah) businessmen to support and equip the school.
Koins for Kenya officials are trying to find sponsors for the children, so they can afford to come to the school. (Many come with only an ear of corn for their lunch and nothing else.)
Bret Van Leeuwen, an Alpine businessman and founder of Koins for Kenya, said the school for albino children is purposefully located in a village that’s not easily accessible. He said when the school opens in January, he expects 80 children but is prepared for 100.
“We don’t know what the enrollment will be,” he said. “We don’t know what will happen.”
Quesenberry knew prayers would help but action was also needed. She has already experienced some satisfaction in knowing some of the despair she witnessed has been replaced with hope.
“I had gone on an expedition … to help build schools in Kenya for Koins for Kenya,” Quesenberry said. “We did that and had a great time when I noticed this woman with her albino child, sitting off to the side. Her face was full of despair. It just filled me with sorrow. The girl was white and covered with sores from exposure to the sun. Her skin was flaking off.” At that point, all Quesenberry felt she could do was to send up prayers in the woman and child’s behalf.
She later discovered: 
The woman, known as Mwanahamisi, had come to the school, stumbling in, hungry and afraid. Her husband had divorced her for bearing two albino children, and he was coming for the children with a machete.
He was stopped before he could harm them, secured within the walls of the private school. 

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