September 2012 Report - Changes at Acheru; preparing for work in northern Uganda and a very special evening in Belfast City Hall
There has been a big change at Acheru. We have had staff changes from time to time, a nurse leaving to get married, another going away to study, but the senior staff have all been there almost from the start of Cherub. Even when Apollo went to study medicine, he remained contracted to us, and comes back to work in Acheru during holidays. Part of the strength of Acheru was that everyone knew and understood each other so well that they could be very supportive of each other in a developing unit which required a lot of flexibility rather than sticking to a precise job description.
We now have to come to terms with a big change. The skills of Paul Ochen, our physiotherapist, were central to the development of Cherub and then Acheru. Paul always took time to talk not just to the patients to the family; in fact he usually talked to the family at length before looking at the child. His assessments and treatment helped change the lives of many children and families, but he always wanted the opportunity to study, to develop his skills. He started working part time at Cherub in 2001, becoming full time in 2003. We always knew he wanted to study, but it still came as a surprise when he resigned on 7th September, and left the next day. He has been given an opportunity to study in Amsterdam, and we wish him well. He gained a lot of experience working with us and now, with this training, we hope many more children will in future benefit from his work.
Some people were shocked when he left, and were concerned for the future of Acheru. He will be missed, but the rest of the staff are now sufficiently experienced to keep everything running smoothly till a new appointment is made. With the reputation Acheru now has in Uganda, I don’t think there will be a shortage of applicants wanting to work there. We have fond memories of Paul, and some adjustment will now be necessary, but the staff and I are confident that the work there will continue to set standards. Pray for wisdom for the Acheru management committee as they prepare to make a new appointment. They need to think of applicants’ skills and experience, but also their ability to fulfil Acheru aims by working with families. We want to appoint someone who shares our vision, and fully understands what it is that makes Acheru different.
We have been blessed that even in this recession not only have we been able to continue the work of Acheru, but to contemplate development. We have never had to turn anyone away because we couldn’t afford to treat them; not only that, but capacity has recently been increased with more inpatient beds. We think we’ve now reached the optimum size for the unit, but of course there is scope to do much more in the community, and we have been looking closely at work in the north of Uganda.
Development there will cost more money, and we were cautious about risking any funds we presently have for the Acheru budget. Friends who share our vision wanted to do something to help, and decided to hold a fund raising event. This was very good news, but we never imagined the scale of what was about to take place. They got the use of Belfast City Hall, courtesy of the High Sheriff and Belfast City Council, at no cost, envisaging a supper and some music/singing for around 100 people. What eventually took place far exceeded all expectations, with the Great Hall filled to capacity (and beyond) for an excellent dinner and a programme of music and singing from New Irish Arts. We were able to launch a beautifully produced short film on Acheru, which proved very effective and is now available on DVD to anyone who contacts us.
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It was a very special evening, supported by many of our donors but also by people who are new to our work. We hope they will also have caught the vision for what we are doing. The event was about more than money; it was a celebration of all that has taken place since Cherub was started. But of course funds were raised too, and after everything was added up we found we had cleared £20,000 – remarkable for one night. We are indebted to everyone who supported the event; it’s another big step for Acheru. We are especially grateful to everyone who helped organise it, and dealt with all the panic as ticket sales grew to over 400 and we had to start a waiting list.
The Acheru staff have been preparing the way in the north, and gaining experience of conditions there. Encouraged by the money we now have available, we are preparing a detailed proposal for consideration by the Acheru management committee and by our Africare committee here. Full details should be available soon, and we hope and pray that the direct result of so many people giving generous support will be that lots more lives will be changed.
Brian Dorman

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