Kyaninga Child Development Centre
By Bill Reynell
Approximately 1 in 10 children in Uganda are born with a disability and many more develop disabilities early on in life due to poor diet, illness or injury. Many communities in Uganda regard disability as a curse, a bad omen, a punishment from God or the result of witchcraft and this often leaves families isolated and alone. With very few resources and services available to children with disabilities, families must often bear the additional burden and expense of travelling long distances to access specialist medical care.
Kyaninga Child Development Centre is an initiative by Kyaninga Lodge’s owners, Steve and Asha Williams, to provide Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and daily respite care services to children with special needs and their families in the Kabarole District of Uganda.
When looking around for help for their own son Sidney, Steve and Asha realised that there were very few resources or specialists available in the area to help children with special needs and their parents, unsurprising given that the entire district budget for people with disabilities is just three million shillings (about USD1000) a quarter.
Casting their net a little wider, Steve and Asha contacted a number of child development centers in the UK, hoping they might be able to get in touch with a specialist therapist willing to come out to Uganda to help not only with Sidney, but also to establish a facility where other families in the area could also access affordable expert care.
It was in this way that Fiona Beckerlegge heard about the project. She is a fully qualified Specialist Pediatric Physiotherapist and member of the Chartered Society for Physiotherapy who, having previously worked in Tanzania, was happy to come to Uganda to help Sidney.
With a personal input of $5000 each to help get the ball rolling, they set about registering KCDC as an NGO, looking for suitable premises, getting hold of equipment, linking with schools, orphanages and health centers throughout the district and recruiting staff and volunteers.
Rachel Lassman joined KCDC to head up the occupational therapy section, and a welcome boost was received in the shape of a pledge from Accomplish Children’s Trust, a UK charitable organization, to sponsor two local therapists who will be joining KCDC very soon, allowing the center to reach more children and offer a growing range of services.
Kyaninga Child Development Centre (KCDC) provides physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech language therapy assessment and rehabilitation to children from birth to age 16, working to ensure the children achieve their optimum potential and that maximal function is achieved and the effect of disability minimised, so that they may overcome many of the barriers that they and their families face in the short and longer terms.
Looking after children with disabilities or special needs places huge burdens on families and carers, so the center also provides daily respite care for families with children with severe disabilities, as well as training, education and support to families, carers and communities in the care of children and young adults with special needs.
While much of the work takes place at the center, KCDC also has a community outreach programme, collaborating with other organisations such as OURS and Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation to reach children out in rural areas, weekly visits to help the children at Tooro Babies Home plus monthly visits to three of the nearby special needs schools and KIDA hospital.
In January 2015, KCDC hosted Camp Kuseka, a five day camp for 30 children with disabilities and 30 volunteer counselors that brought together participants and volunteers from US Peace Corps, RSNF, TOCI, Uganda Special Olympics, Yawe Foundation and of course KCDC itself, empowering children with disabilities and their families to be advocates for their future and to have fun through arts and crafts, sports and education.
KCDC tries to make access to care and therapy as affordable as possible for families and carers, who often struggle with the additional financial burden of looking after a child with disabilities or special needs. Just like the children who depend on their support, KCDC depends on the support of donors, sponsors and well-wishers to meet their diverse running costs, including rent, wages, transport and equipment.