That three-year-old Daniel Kuhani was playing with a group of students in The Shack over the lunch hour on Monday borders on miraculous. The story behind why the little boy from Nairobi, Kenya, was visiting Culver Academies is one of caring, compassion, and connections.
Daniel was abandoned in the streets after life in Nairobi came to a standstill following the attack on the Westgate Mall by Somali terrorists in September 2013. The elderly woman who found him carried the month-old infant by foot across the vast city to the New Life Home – a center that provides for abandoned, orphaned, and vulnerable babies and young children. The four New Life Homes in Kenya are supported by the Amani Children’s Foundation, which has been supported by Culver Girls Academy’s Leadership Committee for Africa since 2004.
Though Daniel was progressing as he got stronger, the New Life staff noticed he was not reaching the traditional developmental milestones for children his age. He was thoroughly tested and found to be profoundly hearing impaired. The doctors determined that Daniel’s best option was to receive a cochlear implant. But he would need to travel to another country for the surgery.
Enter University of Notre Dame student Casey Kennedy. Kennedy served as an Amani Scholars Intern at the Nairobi New Life Home during the summer of 2015. She instantly connected with Daniel and has since worked to raise the funds needed to bring Daniel to The Surgery Center in Carmel for the procedure. The center, Dr. Ben Copeland, the surgeon, and the Hear Indiana team donated their services, which included the surgery and audiology and speech therapy while Daniel is in Indiana. Daniel and his New Life caregiver Yvonne Muthiani arrived on June 20 and the youngster had the surgery was done on June 23.
The funds raised are being used to pay for the implant device and the speech and hearing therapy sessions in Kenya once Daniel returns. Muthiani said Daniel will receive therapy twice a week for the first year and then continue sessions depending on his development. Right now, Daniel is mimicking sounds similar to a seven-to-nine month old child, she said.
Before returning to Nairobi, Muthiani and Daniel came to Culver to meet with LCA members and other students. LCA donated the proceeds from the bead sales at the spring parents and alumni reunion weekends to help cover Daniel’s expenses. The Kennedy family has also established a crowdfunding site to accept donations.
They came with former instructor Lannie Thompson, who now lives in the Indianapolis area. Lannie and her husband John taught at Culver from 1982 to 1996. John is the brother of Jane Stephens, the founder of the Amani Children’s Foundation. LCA has raised over $29,000 for New Life Homes since forming the partnership with Amani in 2004. That is the equivalent of caring for 29 infants during their first year.
Muthiani said Daniel will eventually be ready for adoption. When one of the CGA students asked how she would feel when Daniel was adopted, Muthiani said knowing that he would have a better life made it easier, but it would still be “hard to let go. But it is hard to let go all the time.”