Circular - June 2017
Africare's work in Uganda goes back many years and while most of our efforts are concentrated on what happens next it's encouraging sometimes to hear news of people we worked with in the earlier years, particularly children who were helped by the Besaniya Children's Home. I never became too involved with individuals, some were easier to get on with than others and I couldn't let myself be influenced by personalities, my responsibility was to all of them. Now, many years after they were in the home, we still have contact with a number of them and hear about their progress and current careers. It's clear the influence Besaniya and the values taught there has had on their lives. The following quote is from a letter I received recently:
"Not a single moment did I ever take it for granted being looked after and cared for so well. I now see how well and good most of the boys have turned out to be to their families, communities and yes, nations. You have to understand how much I adored Besaniya. I used to tell my friends that it was the most well run children's home in the country."
Many of you who now support Acheru have been with us from the start, so I hope you find this encouraging.
With Besaniya, we tried to give children a future. That's what we're still trying to do, children in Acheru have their lives changed. For many that means being able to go to school and we try to follow their progress. Some have shown remarkable determination. Seeing them develop helps to reinforce the value of the work, and feedback from their families demonstrates the effectiveness of a Christian witness which helps convince them that their child has a value, they needn't be ashamed, they're not cursed.
We recently had two very experienced visitors to Acheru, and asked them to meet with the Acheru staff and Board to evaluate some aspects of the work, reporting to the Acheru Board and bringing us back observations. We want to maintain standards there so are always interested in feedback. Their impressions were positive, but they identified several problems we'd like to help with. Standards of care and treatment remained high, but there are a number of practical issues we can consider helping with.
A full inspection of all the buildings showed up some maintenance issues which the Acheru workers can deal with, but some other problems will cost money. Our commitment is to the Acheru budget and unless specifically designated otherwise, all Africare donations are held for this. Acheru has been doing well with budgeting, but we recognise too that since the budget was fixed costs have risen substantially, compounded by a fall in the value of sterling affecting the exchange rate. However, we've identified some money we had set aside for other purposes and which wasn't all used, so can now use this to help with some items additional to the budget. One is latrines. The numbers at Acheru are much higher than originally planned for, and an additional latrine block is now needed. The visitors brought back the plans and estimates. Acheru has been saving money from their budget towards building this, but we've now made more money available so that work can proceed.
The physiotherapy room is poorly equipped. In the past I might have helped with this by sending equipment from here, but that's not realistic now since we no longer send containers. I have asked them to investigate what can be made in the Acheru workshop, or what can be purchased in Uganda. The physiotherapist hasn't complained, they manage at Acheru with what they have, but I'd like to see better provision made.
Most medical supplies for Acheru are bought from Joint Medical Stores in Kampala, but in the past we tried to help with anything which wasn't available there, sometimes in containers we sent to Uganda, then more recently with air freight consignments. Several things which are very useful to them at Acheru are unavailable and I wanted to send them from here, but they are now very expensive and the cost of air freight is also very high, so we're trying to find a way to deal with this. Compromise may be necessary, having to use a less than ideal solution, but we'll do our best for them.
There are many ways in which, finance permitting, buildings or facilities could be improved but it's always a balance, ensuring we do not place the work at risk by spending too much now and leaving us short of money for the budget in the future.
Acheru has always done very effective work with Cerebral Palsy children and we would like to improve their resources with a range of special toys. Since it's now unrealistic to send them by air freight, we will consider what Acheru might buy locally and whether there are smaller items which might be carried out by anyone going to Acheru.
The visitors were impressed by the Acheru education programme under Juliet, the teacher. This includes Christian teaching and we want to ensure adequate resources are available. A lot of Christian literature is printed here and it may be possible to have stocks for Acheru included in other consignments going to Uganda. Juliet will also look at what is available from local sources.
None of these problems are serious. Everyone has to work within some constraints, but if it's cost effective to do certain things then we'd like to help. We always have to work within the limitations of staffing, facilities, equipment, and finances, but as with previous reports from Acheru, we continue to be encouraged by the numbers of children treated, often for very serious conditions, and the impressive outcomes.
I had particularly asked the visitors to use their experience to discuss the Acheru constitution, as it required some revisions. This is very important to the future of the work as we want to ensure we have made provision for any long term changes or difficulties. The constitution reinforces the partnership between Acheru and Africare, but also covers eventualities such as a need for Acheru to be more self sufficient in the future. We're close to agreement on the constitution and deed of partnership, and it will be a reassurance for Acheru and for Africare to have it all legally ratified.
The visitors were able to go out on community visits and were impressed by the work done by Harriet, in charge of Community Based Rehabilitation, and Rose, the social worker. It's demanding work, dealing with disabled children who may be living in very poor conditions. Some children may be referred to Acheru for surgical treatment but for others Harriet and Rose work with the child, and with the family, to improve their conditions. This is particularly the case for children with cerebral palsy, commonly encountered but misunderstood with most parents failing to realise the child has potential, and stifling their development by ignoring them. The CBR work under Harriet has done a great deal for such children, and we hope it is an area of the work which can continue to develop. It's not easy though as they encounter people living in deprivation and squalor. Acheru looks impressive, but this is the unseen part of the work, yet it remains so important.
We believe we continue, together with Acheru, to do all we can to support the work presently taking place and to prepare for the future.
Brian Dorman

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