“When you have a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.” Luke 14:13
In Invercargill, New Zealand, a partnership has been set up called the Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation. It is a team that includes teachers, doctors, priests, parents and administrators. This foundation is a community-based programme in Butebe, Fort Portal, Kabarole District in Uganda, which provides rehabilitation for vulnerable families who have a child with a special need. The vision of the organisation is to empower a community that cares for and supports children and their families with a special need.
It began during a trip to Uganda, East Africa with TEAR FUND in July 2010, when I met a young man named Daniel, from Uganda, who was travelling with our tour and we spoke about my work as a Childhood Early Intervention teacher in New Zealand. He was interested that I helped to empower people and encourage them to achieve, and fascinated that this work took me into the homes of many different people, early childhood centres and schools who have children with special needs. This was unheard of in Uganda where children with disabilities were mainly excluded from society.
Daniel’s mother, Florence was studying at the University of Uganda to become a Special Needs teacher at that time and is now working as the Principal of a Primary School in Fort Portal, Uganda near the Rwenzori Ranges close to the border of the Republic of Congo. Florence embraces all children in her school including those who have a special need, and encourages other schools in the province to do likewise.
Subsequently, Florence and Daniel instigated setting up the Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation in Fort Portal and by the time I got home a few weeks later I was named as their Founder/Co-ordinator in New Zealand.
So I went with it.
My family has been supporting this organisation ever since, and I decided to return to Fort Portal with two friends in July this year to monitor progress.
Angela, Leah and myself received a fantastic welcome everywhere we went, and worked hard while visiting more than 20 schools, education offices, health centres, and more than 20 homes where support from our foundation had been given.
We also assisted doctors and an ophthalmologist at a free clinic that the foundation organised where 460 children were assessed, after waiting patiently with their parents for hours under the hot Ugandan sun. It was humbling to see these people waiting in the hope that we might help - many of them thinking their disabilities were evil or somehow their own fault.
What an honour it was for me, watching and helping where I could, as the tears rolled down my cheeks.
Now we are home, we are talking to people and explaining how the foundation is working successfully in one of the poorest of the five provinces bounded by the Rwenzori Mountains. Through the generosity of New Zealanders, five children have had surgery for cleft lip and palate treatment and several more have had surgery and rehabilitation for other treatable conditions. One very generous donation has enabled the Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation to move into larger premises which houses a rehabilitation centre, consultation rooms and kitchen facilities along with an enclosed outdoor area for physical outdoor games and sports. A little goes a very long way in Uganda, with as little as NZ$20 providing life-changing medical opportunities through the Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation.
This is God’s work and I give him thanks for everything he is doing in our lives whilst working hand in hand with the people of Uganda.
Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation
Phone 0274 055 218