Kasese District Union of People with Disabilities, KADUPEDI, KDP for short, is the NGO I am working with as Program Development Advisor. KDP is a district-wide umbrella organization with over 30 members. KDP was founded in 1995 to provide a unified voice and action in dealing with the issues of people with disabilities (PWDs) in the Kasese district.
My Office Entrance
What has impressed me more than anything else is the exceptional breed of people associated with KPD. Baluku Peter whose official designation is Development Worker is very much like a CEO. Alice looks after all administrative chores and Biira Sylvia is the Rehab Worker.
Peter has twisted feet and a broken back. He limps and is bent over. When he was six years old, he was captured in the cross fire between Uganda's warring factions. He was injected with a serum in his legs that completely immobilized him. At one time, he was not even able to stand up. He had to drag himself to move around. However, he was determined to deal with his disability and overcome the barriers. He worked hard, studied hard and persevered to become an accountant. He is also a community worker. His personal experience inspired him to work to improve the condition of other PWDs.
Now, he is completely independent and manages his life much better than many able-bodied people. He uses his arms and cane in so many different ways, I marvel at his versatility. He also commands respect and authority. There is a constant stream of people with disabilities who drop in to seek his advice on any number maters, some of which go well beyond their disabilities. When he speaks at meetings, others listen. He is also an elected member of local council. He works at KDP as a volunteer.
Alice is in charge of office and is barely three feet tall. She fell down when she was an infant and was gravely sick and that has stunted her growth. Her arms and legs are extremely short and she has a hump on her back. But, she has a constant big smile on her face. She is always the first to arrive and the last to leave and lock up. And, what does she get for her work? Absolutely nothing! She is 27 years old, the eldest among her three brothers and five sisters. Her mother is dead and her father is a peasant without any land. He earns nothing and depends on Alice to support him as do her siblings. But she cannot find a paid job anywhere. She makes a bit of money as a typist, but, the income is negligible.
The third person who works here is Biiara Sylvia. She is a very bright and energetic young woman. She is a trained Rehab Worker. She was born with a bone disease in her left leg. She was operated in 1998 when an artificial limb was transplanted. She has a big limp while walking. She provides rehab services to children, parents of disabled children and to adults. As a qualified rehab workers, she would like to secure a paid job, but she cannot find one and KDP cannot afford to pay her. So, she also works here as a volunteer.
Biiara Gatrida is another woman I met. She was born with polio and both her legs are non-functional. She wears thongs on her hands which she uses as her feet and drags herself all over. It is gut-wrenching to watch her. Yet, even in this kind of condition, she took courses on weaving mats and baskets and now sells them to support herself. Her biggest wish right now is to acquire a wheel chair so she could pick up raw material and deliver finished products for her weaving business herself instead of asking others who are not always reliable. She also wants to start giving lessons in weaving to others in her situation. What a story!
I have met a number of other disabled people. Despite their disabilities and accompanying poverty, they carry on their lives with limitless resiliency, perseverance and positive outlook. They exude happiness.
Liberation Day and Equator
Yesterday was Uganda’s national Liberation Day. Twenty four years ago yesterday, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) defeated the rebels and took power under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni. I attended a rally and celebrations in Kasinga, a village about 35 km from here on the border with DRC. It consisted of unending parades of military personnel and a huge speech-a-thon. Anyone who has any kind of elected or appointed position made a long drawn out speech. The best part was some entertainment and traditional dancing. I hope I can upload a video of this dance in which women clad in grass skirts dance to the tune of drums, known as Embara, made up of wooden planks placed on two small tree trunks. Very traditional and unique!
On return trip from Kasinga, we stopped at the Equator which is exactly at the midway point of the earth. So, now I have the bragging rights that I stood at the centre of the earth. Ha, ha! The man in yellow shirt is Peter of KDP.