After making a great start to the Centre of Excellence building project in the last half of 2022, progress has faltered due to a delay in funding, meaning that we cannot finish the first 2 units and move the therapy and rehabilitation team into the new premises as planned.
It all started when Kyaninga Child Development Centres Founding Director, Steve Williams, met Markus Dobmeier, a tutor at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich (HM) and one of the Founding Directors of the German-based NGO “Bauen für Orangefarm” (BfO) in 2019, and shared his ideas for a Centre of Excellence for the treatment and education of children with disabilities in western Uganda. After this first meeting, the idea emerged to integrate the project into the German University’s curriculum as a so-called “Design-Build” Project, where students research, design, and work on the construction of projects. The design phase started with a site survey conducted in 2020 by a BfO Team.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the start of the construction was unfortunately delayed by nearly two years. At the end of 2021, we began by levelling the land to reduce the slope and make it more accessible and removing the vegetation layer to access good soil, which we are using to produce the blocks for our walls. Through a donation from Kyaninga Forest Foundation, we planted 280 indigenous trees, creating a natural and soft boundary around the site.
After a further Covid-19 delay, work started in earnest in early July 2022 with the construction of a sanitary unit, storage, guardhouse and a covered shed to cure our blocks. In the following weeks, the foundations and bricks were prepared just to be ready for the student’s arrival in the last week of August. To be environmentally friendly, we produce rammed-earth bricks using the earth excavated for the foundations. The physical effort to create these bricks was evidenced when some of our team members visited the site and took 5 people to make just one!!!!
In August 2022, 11 students from Ugandan Martyrs University and 11 students from various universities in Germany worked with local artisans on the project. During this period, the students engaged in multiple aspects of actual construction, such as addressing and solving design or detailing questions, casting concrete, block laying, producing roof trusses etc. We got fantastic overall feedback from the students, and we look forward to having another group here soon, hopefully in July 2023.
After the students left, the work continued with local artisans and is still ongoing.
So far, we have finished the core build, foundations, walls, columns, and ring beam, as well as the roof trusses and roofing sheets of units 1 and 2, which will be home to the admin team and 5 therapy treatment rooms.
We are now looking for additional funding partners to help complete these first 2 units, which will allow the team to move from the outgrown rented property we are currently in. The larger project plans to build an inclusive model school and a professional development centre on the same site so that we will truly become a centre of excellence for disability and inclusion within Uganda.
How it started
It all started when our Founding Director, Steve Williams, met Markus Dobmeier, a Tutor at the University of applied sciences in Munich (HM) and one of the Founding Directors of the German-based NGO “Bauen für Orangefarm” (BfO) in 2019, and shared his ideas for a Centre of Excellence for the treatment and education of people with disabilities in western Uganda. After this first meeting, the idea emerged to integrate the Project into the University of Germany's curriculum as a “Design-Build” Project, where Students research, design, and work on the construction of Projects. The design phase started with a Site Survey done in 2020 by a BfO Team.
The purchase of a 2-acre site for the proposed Kyaninga Therapy and Rehabilitation Centre has been secured. It was purchased through kind donations from local well-wishers, worth $35,505.
After various workshops and courses held at the HM and the Technical University Munich, supported by the input of the KCDC Team and local architects, we finally got our building permission in 2020. Because of Covid, the start of the construction was unfortunately delayed by nearly two years. The Project picked up again when Mike Arzberger, an architect from Germany and part of BfO, joined the KCDC Team in November 2021 as Project Manager for the Construction and the KCDC Mobility Project. Through this partnership, KCDC could save on architectural design fees of approximately $41,522.
Just before Christmas 2021, we started with the first steps of construction, the levelling of the land to reduce the slope and make it more wheelchair friendly, as well as removing the vegetation layer to access good soil, which we are using to produce the blocks for our walls.
Progress so far
After a lengthy delay (at the beginning of 2022 because of rising Covid cases), we were finally able to start the preparations of the site and welcome a team of local and international students in mid-2022.
Work started in early July with the construction of a sanitary unit, storage, guardhouse and a covered shed to cure our blocks. In the next steps, the foundations and blocks were prepared just to be ready for the student’s arrival in the last week of August.
For 4 weeks, the group of 11 students from the Ugandan Martyrs university and 11 students from various universities in Germany worked with local craftsmen on the project. During this period, the students engaged in various aspects of actual construction like addressing and solving design or detailing questions, casting concrete, block laying, producing roof trusses and many more. We got overall amazing feedback from the students. We look forward to having another group here soon, hopefully in February 2023.
After the Students left, the work continued with local craftsmen and is still ongoing.
So far, we have finished the core build, foundations, walls, columns, and ring beam, as well as the roof trusses and their installation of unit 1. At unit 2, we finished all foundations, the production of all blocks as well as the walls of the first building.
At unit 1, we aim to complete all the roofing by the first week of November.
The next steps for unit 2 are to finish the walls, columns and ring beam by mid-November and the roofing by the end of November.
After this, we will move to the finishing works, which include the electrical installations, plumbing, installation of the door and window frames, internal plastering, flooring, and some initial landscaping around these first two units.
We aim to move into these first two units early next year, and we can't wait!! Our dream of a purpose-built centre is finally being realised.
Kyaninga Child Development Centre, in its effort to meet the growing demand for its quality, efficient and affordable specialized therapy, rehabilitation and education services for children with disabilities, is working towards building its own home, a centre of excellence. Over the past 8 years, KCDC has reached over 5,000 children with disabilities, which is increasing rapidly. The centre of excellence will provide a beacon of hope for children and their families as well as a hub for training, development and advocacy.
Michael shares with us his story of the importance of a centre like KCDC, where families can receive the acceptance and support they desperately need when faced with the challenges of having a child with a disability in Uganda.
“I’m so proud of what our daughter has achieved and full of hope that she will get stronger with time. This is so different to how I felt when she was born. I was filled with pride at the birth of our little girl, but it was so sad to see her struggle with her disability and be told she wouldn’t be able to do anything for herself.
People met the news about our little girl’s disability with superstition. Even her grandparents told us she was ‘bewitched’ and that we must get a pastor to pray for her. I didn’t believe any of this. How could my beautiful girl be ‘possessed’ by anything? My resistance to this idea led to disagreements and my parents-in-law and I now no longer speak.
My wife, desperate for any help for her child and loving her like only a mother can, sought the help of a pastor. The pastor agreed to help but only if we gave him 100,000 shillings ($27). This was already a lot of money! However, the pastor arrived at our home at the exact moment my friend was returning 3,000,000 shillings ($810) which I had loaned to him. The pastor’s eyes lit up on seeing the money and suddenly changed his price to 300,000 shillings ($81)! I got really angry at the pastor for trying to take advantage of our daughter’s condition and chased him from our house.
Still looking for something, anything, which could help my daughter, I was told about KCDC. I was amazed to find they didn’t charge anything for their services. I felt so comforted when I told them my story, and my daughter’s transformation during her time with KCDC has been amazing. She can now hold things in her hands and try to bring them to her mouth! Incredible for a little girl who everyone believed wouldn’t be able to do anything for herself!
My wife’s work means she is often out of the house for long hours. Caring for our daughter is my responsibility. Other men laugh at me and ask ‘how can a man be a babysitter?’ I don’t care, though. The support from KCDC is wonderful, and I get to see our little girl develop and get stronger.
The training I have received from KCDC has filled me with confidence. I didn’t believe in superstition about my daughter before and I definitely don’t now. I really encourage other dads to always love their children and families and also to share the responsibility of looking after children with disabilities."
My name is Gamukama Murungi, and I am a speech and language therapist (SLT), working with Kyaninga Child Development Centre (KCDC) Kasese branch. With more than 3 years of experience working with children with disabilities (CWDs), I have been able to help many CWDs improve their feeding and swallowing as well as general communication in many ways. This has greatly improved their way of life as well as their families. Chris and his mother wear a big smile today because of KCDC and my direct intervention. My day-to-day experiences with these children just like this make my days brighter, and I would like to share Chris’ story with you.
After a struggle as an African family who had lost 3 of their 7 children, Rosette thought they were lucky to have one more the time she conceived. The pregnancy was normal and delivered at full term. Two months later, the frustration from the past hit again as their little boy (Chris) started falling sick at 2 months of age. Along with the sickness was recurrent pneumonia which did not respond to medication. Chris could hardly eat anything because he was vomiting constantly, and he was generally weak and failing to gain weight. In July 2018, she heard about KCDC where she enrolled as Chris was 10 months. He was a happy child with abilities to see, hear, smile, and hold small objects. However, he was delayed in achieving developmental milestones, he was unable to sit, crawl, stand and talk just like children of the same age around here.
With the multi-disciplinary intervention from the great team at KCDC Kasese, Chris started achieving his lost milestones slowly by slowly. For a speech and language therapist, Chris’ feeding was a major priority. Using the locally available resources, I and Chris’ mother modified the texture of his food, made mealtimes more playful as well as provided smaller utensils to fit Chris’ needs. Slowly by slowly, Chris learnt to feed with ease and swallow safely. There was a significant change in his general health as the vomiting and recurrent chest infections resolved and he was able to gain weight, making him stronger and more resilient.
Today, Chris is enrolled in a school, able to feed himself, use 3-word long sentences and tell stories. On seeing the therapist and mother through the window, Chris stood and said “Chicha! mama yangye”. To mean “Teacher! My mummy” as he pointed to me through the window. I remember quoting her with the statement with “Konka nomanya hari Kyaninga eihire omwana wangye iwe? to mean, ‘but do you know how KCDC has gotten my son?’ Mama Chris told the teachers when I visited him at school.
With your assistance, at KCDC, we have been able to make significant changes in the lives of children with disabilities just like Chris, their families and communities.
Schools in Uganda have been closed for the past 20 months, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and students living in rural western Uganda, along with other regions of the country, have not received online tuition or home schooling during this time due to a lack of teaching resources and digital poverty. There are concerns that many young people will not return to the classroom for a number of reasons, including joining the workforce, teenage pregnancy and early marriage, financial insecurity and changing family priorities.
Kyaninga Child Development Centre’s special needs education team has used this time to strengthen home-based learning through individual home visits to students with disabilities to reduce the learning gap and to encourage students to return to the classroom. These visits have focused on individual learning needs, including reading, writing, numeracy and literacy.
We haven’t neglected the schools either during this time and have constructed wheelchair accessible pit latrines in 10 partner schools.
Disability accessible hygiene facilities for Children with Disabilities
Children with disabilities (CwDs) remain one of the principal groups excluded from education globally. In Uganda, an estimated 9% of CwDs enrol in primary school. Furthermore, those who do attend are more likely to be excluded within the classroom, fail to progress, and consequently drop out (UNESCO 2015). There are several factors that prevent CwDs from attending school, including lack of accessible classrooms and toilets, as well as non-inclusive attitudes and teaching strategies. According to the DFID report, Education for Children with Disabilities - Improving Access and Quality, school planning and construction rarely consider issues of accessibility and barrier-free design. A simple lack of accessible toilets will prevent CwDs from going to school and potentially expose them to increased health risks. Although many governments and agencies have policies about the inclusion of CwDs in school, these rarely consider water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues.
Children with disabilities, especially girls, are often not able to attend schools because they do not have access to a toilet. Many do not eat or drink water while at school to avoid having to use the bathroom which additionally has adverse effects on their ability to concentrate and learn. A full day of school without access to WASH facilities is not only unsafe to a child’s health, but for a girl who is menstruating, it is impossible.
According to World Vision Disability Inclusive WASH report 2014, the effects of disability inclusive WASH cascade into other areas of life, including, for example, stronger self-esteem, better access to education, improved participation in social life, and greater livelihood opportunities. Most importantly, it is about recognising the value and dignity of each person and taking actions to express this concretely.
We are thrilled that students like Veronica will have access to better facilities when they return to school, enhancing their ability to participate in class without worrying about sanitation and hygiene and not having to miss days of school because of their menstruation hygiene.
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