Not even a wheelchair can bind the positive spirit of 42-year-old Paula Mwangi, whose sheer determination and boundless love for children has seen her establish a school for vulnerable children in Uthiru,
The mother of two girls and founder of St Paula Junior Academy started teaching the children from her rented house but has since moved on to a bigger space. Her living room however still serves as a
classroom to date.
The school caters for orphans, needy children and those living with disabilities, the latter who hold a special place in her heart for Paula, who until 2006, could walk.
Ten years ago, Paula could walk and lived a normal life. She was a student then, undertaking an early childhood education program at a local institution.
But she remembers one fateful day when things turned upside down.
“I got infected with meningitis and was unconscious for a full month but I thank God I pulled through,” she says.
She did not let her illness keep her down, however, and went back to school to undertake her final ECD examinations in 2007.
Her health took a turn for the worse shortly after that when, while working as a teacher at a local school, she found that she could neither stand nor walk for long periods.
“I would feel a lot pain at the back while walking going to school or standing while teaching. I was later diagnosed with spinal cysts which is what affected my ability to walk,” she recalls.
She started using walking sticks but it was not for long because the pain became unbearable. She acquired a wheelchair which she uses to date for her mobility.
Her condition constantly deteriorated, forcing her to quit, and that is when the idea of starting her own school was birthed.
To her, service to mankind is service to God and using her skills and experience as a teacher and a parent, she committed herself to educating children living with HIV, orphans, mentally challenged and
physically disabled. She not only became a teacher, but a mentor and guardian to these children.
She has pupils from nursery school to class three.
She also feeds these children with money from her saving and basically sustains the project through well-wishers and bank loans . During her free time, she makes ornaments from beads and also keeps
She started the school with an enrolment of five children only but the number increased with time and this necessitated construction of some classrooms on a hired piece of land. She now has 15 children and four staff members to help her care for them.
So, what motivated her to start the school?
“I was motivated by the fact that I understand what it means to be vulnerable. I know what it means to be poor, without anyone to care for you. I realised these children were neglected and needed help.”
I DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO FORGET ME
One would be curious to find out why the school is named St Paula?
“I want people to continue doing good deeds in the society. I do not want them to forget me after I am long gone. I believe God had a reason for this.”