By Fred Ouma, Development Communications Coordinator, World Vision Uganda
“My name is Benitah. I am 9 years old. I am in primary three. We are a family of three girls: my mother, my sister and me. I am the second and the last born to my mother. My elder sister is in primary five. We survive on a single income from my mother’s small business. She is a hardworking woman who does everything in her power to ensure my sister and I live a decent life.
“I was born with fragile legs and my mother spent a lot of money on my treatment. She did everything for me within her limits. She had only dreamed to see me standing on my legs. All of her concentration was how to make me cured and ‘normal’.
Adjusting to the New "Normal"
“After a long struggle, she was advised by the doctors to accept my condition, and allow me to start school on time. I am glad she did. I think she was not wrong, as every parent should have the same desire.
“Growing up, it was quite a challenge travelling from one place to another. As accessible public transport is not available here, my family usually avoided most social activities. When we attended a gathering, people usually looked at me with curious gazes. But I didn’t care because I know who I am. I am not a stranger. It’s not my problem, but it is a problem for those who have difficulty accepting me.
“When I started school, the challenge grew even bigger. My school is near our house but the road leading up to there is very dusty with open drainage, and it gets muddy and impassable after rain.
“Our school has classroom blocks with raised verandahs and steep stairs. It was sometimes really hard for me to move between these classroom blocks several times a day. I requested our teacher to shift our classroom to one of the classroom blocks with low verandah for easy access. I am glad my request was considered because it was a need for many pupils at my school.
“I never feel that I am segregated from my friends. We attend classes and enjoy leisure time together. You may say that I can’t walk, but the reality is I can. So-called ‘normal’ people don’t need the support from their hands for walking, but everyone is somehow different. I am also different from others and I am happy with myself without any complaints to anyone.
“My mother runs a stall in the nearby Kalerwe market. Increasingly it was becoming difficult for her to carry me to and from school every morning and evening. She felt the necessity of a wheelchair for me, but it was difficult for her to manage the cost of the wheelchair.
Opening Doors With a Specialized Wheelchair
“Once my family found a wheelchair, but it was painful for me because it was for an adult. Last year, World Vision helped me get a wheelchair. Some experts from Motivation Africa fitted it for purpose and designed it to suit my needs, and gave it to me. I feel comfortable with the new one, and I know that it has been made only for me. It is easy to move around with a tray I use for writing and eating food. My handwriting has greatly improved and I no longer eat from the dirty ground like before.
Since 2015, a total of 1,096 children have benefited from this support of wheelchairs. The wheelchairs provide hope and a fresh start for children, just like Benitah. They are fit for purpose and designed to suit the tough African terrain, including urban and rural communities. All the way from Australia, World Vision ships bright and colourful wheelchairs to children who need them most. A third vital member of this partnership, Motivation Charitable Trust, trains local health centre staff to fit wheelchairs and ensure children are safe and happy.
New Movement, New Circumstances
“I used to feel sad for not being able to do what my peers were doing. Now I can literally do everything by myself. The school life is amazing. I have many friends. I can play, chat, move here and there by myself, write clearly, and my mother does not need to carry me all the time. I am not a burden to her and my friends. She now has more time to attend to her business. My friends always lend me a hand if I need a little push here and there.
“The experience of living with a disability has helped me to determine the purpose of my life. I have a dream to be a medical doctor and be able to help children who have challenges due to disabilities. I see myself as no different from other children and I believe that by studying hard I can realise my dream of becoming a medical doctor. If I can, I’ll have the opportunity to serve poor people and my mother as well. I am always sincere in my studies to achieve my desired goal. But I still believe that it depends on the will of God.
The experience of living with a disability has helped me to determine the purpose of my life. I have a dream to be a medical doctor and be able to help children who have challenges due to disabilities.
“I also want to become an advocate for the voiceless. I want all children to live a better life. I want to have accommodating toilets, schools, transport, homes, offices, etc. I want my family, teachers, classmates, and community to change their attitudes, be helpful, and be encouraging and supportive. I also want World Vision to teach our community to change their attitude and minimise barriers. A better world for all of us is possible when we all act responsibly towards each other.”