travel bursary reports
After months of praying and planning, I finally boarded a plane on the 13th of June to Entebee airport, Uganda. I was travelling from Belfast to Kabembe in Uganda, a little town 2 hours from the capital, where Africare has set up a unit to care for disabled children. This centre is called ACHERU – which stands for ‘Afaayo Child Health Education and Rehabilitation Unit’. ‘Afaayo’ is Luganda for ‘He cares’, and as this became my home for the next month, I truly learnt the meaning of this word! I travelled out with a friend from university, and neither of us were fully prepared for what we experienced in Africa!
ACHERU is a place where the love of Christ is shown in a practical way. Disabled children from all around Uganda can come and receive affordable treatment and are cared for as part of a Christian community. ACHERU cares for children from 0-17 of all faiths, and their mission is to show people God’s love so that they can experience his grace and fall in love with him for themselves. Many children come to ACHERU as their last resort. Many of them have already been through numerous witchdoctors, have been ostracised from their communities and have lost all hope. The Ugandan National Health Survey in 2011 found that around 10% of children between the ages of 5 and 19 live with some form of disability, yet disability is still stigmatised in Uganda, and the government continues to fail these vulnerable people.
‘God is good all the time, all the time God is good!’ - African proverb
ACHERU believes strongly in giving the child the ability to stand for themselves, and this sometimes involves literally treating a child so they can stand on their own two feet and look others in the eyes. Common conditions treated are bow legs, knock knees, club feet, osteomyelitis, fractures and cerebral palsy (CP). ACHERU employs nurses, orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists to treat the children. A teacher is also employed so that children staying there for long periods of time do not miss out on the opportuinity for education. This will also help them rehabilitate into normal society as they will find it easier to reintegrate back into school. Community workers also operate for ACHERU and their work involves finding children in the community with disability and convincing them to come forward for treatment. They also follow-up on past clients and encourage their carers. Encouragement is a vital part of the follow-up, especially for CP patients as progress is slow and limited and it is very easy to give up – especially when support is lacking and no improvement can be seen.
During my time in Uganda, I had the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of life at ACHERU, from dressing the patients’ wounds, to helping cast legs and arms. I helped teach the children their ‘A, B, Cs’ and went around in the community, telling parents that they were doing a great job and praying with them. We were also given the opportunity to see the ACHERU unit operating in Gulu, in the northern region of Uganda. They do the same incredible work there in the war-torn land that has been devastated by civil war and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The impact of ACHERU in the surrounding areas is clearly visible – we visited many children who couldn’t walk before they came, and they were able to run and skip when they left! The staff there serve with dedication and a true passion to see children healed and the gospel proclaimed! It has also impacted me incredibly, increasing my love of Africa, my desire to care for the vulnerable and it has truly taught me the meaning of the old African proverb – ‘God is good all the time, all the time God is good!’. There have been times when I found myself in seemingly hopeless situations in the community outside of ACHGERU, but God’s love shone through and created hope. I am indebted to ACHERU for giving me the opportunity to partner alongside them and share God’s love. I am also so grateful to the Timios Trust who granted me a bursary of £250 towards my travels, allowing me give a lot more freely to the work of ACHERU.
Read our reports from those we have supported through bursaries!