22 February 2023

Self-Denial 2023: Like you’re in Heaven

Josfridah's story

Remote video URL

As part of the Self-Denial Appeal, Josfridah shares his story of being welcomed.

This year’s Self-Denial Appeal runs from 5 February to 5 March with a focus on children and young people and how The Salvation Army is supporting, enabling, caring for and being changed by children and young people around the world.

The Salvation Army’s Joytown school in Kenya has nearly 700 students over two sites. The primary school offers places for children from the age of seven, with a wide range of disabilities. Next door, the secondary school takes students from the age of 14 and they study here for four years.

‘I’m sort of a new student,’ says Josfridah. ‘I’ve stayed here for three months. I’ve learnt a lot. It’s fun with a lot of activities and the students are really taken care of. This school is awesome to me.’

Around the world the Army has over 2,000 schools educating more than 500,000 children. In Kenya, there are 500 Salvation Army schools across its two territories, including 13 special schools.

'My disability is spina bifida,’ explains Josfridah. ‘Here we call it “SB”. I came to recognise myself here, to know more about my disability, to know what I can do and what I can’t do.’

There’s a lot of stigma associated with disability in Kenya. Josfridah has suffered more than her fair share of discrimination.

‘Life was difficult,’ she says. ‘It still is. Ever since I was young, I had this difficulty of really accepting myself. I was bullied. They used to see me as an odd one out, an exception because I was different from them. In Kenya, if I tell someone that I’m disabled, they look at me and say it’s witchcraft or they say my mum is a witch and that’s why she gave birth to a disabled child. That’s what we face.

‘I really thought of myself as a burden but when I came to Joytown, I saw kids in wheelchairs and they were really happy. They are being helped – they can’t walk, they need to be supported to go to the washroom or to clean – and they are happy. That’s when I started practising things. I engaged in different activities. I tried to associate with people, tried to be social, tried to be me.’

Photo shows Josfridah sat on a bench reading.

In an ideal world most students here would be integrated into mainstream schools, but making schools accessible is out of reach for many lower-income countries and changes like this take time.

Joytown school offers tailored instruction, specialised support and the resources and services that the young people need. Students are involved in growing and harvesting food for the kitchens. Across the two sites they have specialist physiotherapy and medical support: there’s a dedicated team who repair and maintain wheelchairs and a hydrotherapy pool. The welfare of students is at the heart of everything, and Salvation Army chaplains are always around for support. Like all Salvation Army schools, everyone wants to enable the young people to thrive and flourish.

‘I have these high goals I want to achieve and for me to achieve that I must work hard and read a lot,’ says Josfridah. ‘I really want to become a doctor, a neurosurgeon. I want to become a person who can show the world that being disabled doesn’t mean that you can’t do things. Being disabled doesn’t mean that you’re a nobody.

‘When I was younger, I used to love music, but I couldn’t sing in front of people because I was afraid to be judged. When I came here, I gave it a try because I love music so much. It’s where I can lift the weight off my shoulders and become free. The way the notes flow, the way the highness and the lowness of the pitches mixing makes this beautiful sound. You feel like you’re in Heaven – that’s what I feel. Joytown has helped me because I’m opening a new chapter where I can at least write a story in a new and positive way.’

There are quite a few ways to give to Self-Denial. You can use the envelope, or this year's collection box. You can visit salvationist.org.uk/selfdenial – or, if you have a standing order set up already, you can make a payment that way. Speak with your corps treasurer.

Make your offering online

Give to Self-Denial

Discover more

Go without something to support the work of the international Salvation Army.

Information and resources for the Self-Denial Appeal 2024.

Six Bible studies based on Psalm 100:1-5 which help explore the theme of Generous Discipleship.

Benjamin Gilbert explains the differences and links between the Army’s two major international appeals.

Related tags