July 27, 2021
New Freedom with a Fence: Reuben Rokunga’s Story
Reuben Rokunga is an active 5-year-old boy who loves playing outdoors; however, doing so safely had become a concern for his family. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, receptive-expressive language disorder and intellectual disability, Reuben would often run across the street. “He would suddenly leave the yard and go to neighbors’ houses,” says Lal Puii, Reuben’s mom. “He didn’t know he could get injured and didn’t understand he couldn’t just go into other houses.”
Reuben’s parents needed to find a way to keep him safe, which led them to contact EveryStep’s Children at Home program in hopes of finding funding for door alarms and a fence for their backyard.
Immigrants from Myanmar, Reuben’s parents speak Chin Mizo and completing the application for help was difficult. EveryStep intake and referral specialist Hannah Christiansen stepped in and connected the family with two EveryStep interpreters, Noel Lalthangliana and Lal Thari, who were able to assist in communicating with Reuben’s family and completing the application.
Initially, the family requested a chain-link fence like others in their neighborhood, but after watching Reuben easily climb over a neighbor’s chain-link fence, his mother Lal asked if they could instead get a taller, harder-to-climb wooden fence.
Shortly after the fence company completed its survey and inspection, the family was informed that their shed, which they believed was on their property, was actually located on the property of a church directly behind the family’s home.
EveryStep was there again to meet Reuben’s family’s needs.
While creating a new plan for the fence wasn’t difficult, the problem of the shed being on the church’s property remained. Hannah and the EveryStep interpreters worked with the church to resolve the dilemma. The church agreed to allow the shed to remain on its property, and to lease the land to the family for 10 years (or until the family sold the property) at a cost of $1 per year.
Completed in May 2021, Reuben’s family is very thankful for their new fence. “After the fence, he can play by himself outside,” said Lal. “We’re not concerned when he goes outdoors. It’s so good, so useful, so helpful. It makes Rueben a happier boy.”
Click here to learn more about EveryStep’s Children at Home program, how it can empower children living with disabilities, and the financial assistance available to families.