Circular - December 2012
A lot has happened over the last year, personally and with Acheru. A high point was going to Buckingham Palace in May to collect my MBE, but then two weeks later I was in hospital for major heart surgery. This turned into a longer stay than anticipated because of infections, which they were unable to identify. Then, two months after my surgery, when they were about to start me on lengthy inpatient treatment with what they termed toxic antibiotics, the infection suddenly cleared and I was allowed home – with dire warnings about coming back at the first sign of trouble. But there were no problems, and I haven’t looked back. Thank you to all who visited, prayed, sent messages of encouragement. I didn’t like being out of action for two months, but have to accept that the rest of the world managed to carry on without me.
With Acheru, we’ve been encouraged to see the work continue to grow, meaning more children treated. We now have to plan very carefully as we face rising costs. We have 32 inpatient beds at Acheru, all for surgical cases. We refer them for surgery to CoRSU – Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services Uganda. They are the NGO running the big children’s hospital at Kisubi, and specialise in orthopaedic and plastic surgery. When we started Cherub, surgery was carried out by CBM (who now fund CoRSU). The arrangement was that they provided surgery, we provided rehabilitation. We didn’t see the children as ‘CBM’ patients, or ‘Cherub’ patients, we each did what we could to help needy children.
In the following years various changes were introduced, so we had to take on more of the responsibility for the children. With the CoRSU hospital, they may be admitted for surgery and stay for a few days, but can then be with us at Acheru for months or even years of rehabilitation. These hospital costs have become an increasing concern. For this year, CoRSU waived some charges, and some were met by CBM, but there is uncertainty over what will happen next year. It is helpful for us if relatives can contribute to the cost of a child’s care but we are dealing with very poor people, particularly in the north. This year, the average charge to Acheru for a referred patient is £38. Without subsidy, this would have been £163, so it’s a very significant difference, and even that is just a small part of what it may cost Acheru by the time the child is well enough to go home. We have never turned away a child because of cost and hope we never will, but we have to face these concerns. You as donors have been faithful to the work, and we don’t feel it’s right to cut back in any way, so are going ahead with development in the north. What we do there will be carefully monitored and evaluated. There is great need there; donors give us money to treat children, and we are trying to reach the most needy. We’ve largely completed development of Acheru, so now intend using all money given for the running budget. The aim remains to treat as many children as possible. Take a look at the pictures with this letter, and try to imagine what would have happened to these children if we hadn’t helped.
The Acheru staff put a lot of thought into how we could work effectively in the north. All along we have heard others talk of what they were going to do there, but it simply hasn’t happened. Acheru has now agreed a memorandum of understanding with Minakulu health centre, near Gulu. We are recruiting local staff who will work from the centre, and we will equip examination and treatment facilities there. We already have a community based rehabilitation worker there and now want to appoint an orthopaedic officer, physiotherapist, and nurse. The aim is that Minakulu will become the referral centre for a wide area. This is a very significant development. As well as assessing and referring surgical cases there is scope for outpatient work, and for community work which will make people more aware of the help available for disabled children. Now the government in the north are taking an interest. They say the existing medical services can’t cope with the type of work we do, and they have offered us buildings at Minakulu to provide accommodation for workers, and a small inpatient unit. This is much more than we had intended, with serious cost implications, but we must consider it seriously as we could treat many more children.
It’s very difficult at present to estimate numbers, but there’s now potential for Acheru to take between 300 and 400 surgical patients over the next year, in addition to outpatient and community work. In one way the potential costs are daunting, but then from the day we started Cherub, taking a huge step of faith, donors have backed us and now thousands of children have had their lives changed. It’s a work with dramatic results and a widespread impact, particularly in view of the prevalence of witchcraft in the areas where we’re working. I suspect most of the children brought to Acheru will have been with the witchdoctor first, often with devastating consequences. We need to educate the community, and the most effective way of doing this is to let them see the change which results when a child is brought to us.
There was a time when the age of 65 seemed to me to be positively ancient, and I couldn’t imagine ever being that age myself – yet I’m now almost there. I’ve been asked a number of times about retirement, but let me please make it absolutely clear that I have no intention whatever of retiring from Africare. I want others to take more responsibility both with Africare here and Acheru in Uganda, so that it all doesn’t just depend on me, but Hazel and I both intend continuing for as long as we’re able.
Brian Dorman
Two examples of the suffering inflicted by the witch doctor.
Both children now successfully treated.
'African Child' by Ross Wilson
Donated by the artist to raise funds for Acheru.
We are now taking orders for Limited Edition A4 size prints, signed and mounted, at £50 each.

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