The Ark is a day centre caring for up to 15 children with disabilities, in Soroti, a market town in rural north Uganda.
All the children enrolled at The Ark have physical disabilities, often mobility issues, of varying degrees of severity. Some, but not all, have learning disabilities as well.
What are the challenges?
A number are orphans living in extremely large extended families – one lives with an elderly grandparent responsible for 16 dependents, another with 13 cousins. In such large families, all impoverished, it is a struggle to meet even basic needs, let alone the more complex needs of a disabled child.
Before attending The Ark, most of the children led extremely isolated lives, often locked away for hours each day, or suffering the effects of prejudice from neighbours, or even family members.
In rural Uganda, services for children with disabilities are extremely limited. Even if a service is offered, many families struggle to access help due to transport difficulties, especially if a child has mobility issues.
At The Ark, children receive healthy meals, training in basic life skills where appropriate, and light physical therapy. Staff have developed partnerships with other NGOs and an orthopaedic hospital, and are able to refer children and support them in receiving further treatment when possible. When appropriate, we help children attend school – although this can be challenging due to cultural attitudes towards disability.
The Ark provides a warm, caring environment for children leading very difficult lives – and even with this simple support parents are seeing changes.
Our lead social worker at the centre reports: “*Ivan’s family is happy now because of Global Care’s support to meet his education costs, treatment costs, social support given to the family through the disability group and physiotherapy at the centre, which she testifies has greatly changed his abilities.”
Getta is deaf and physically disabled as she has no feet. She walks slowly with special shoes. Unable to communicate, she arrived at the Ark fearful and isolated. Now she attends a school for the deaf and is a happy, gregarious girl. In just a few months, she learnt sign language and became totally integrated in school life.
Joshua was born prematurely and abandoned by his parents. He came to The Ark underdeveloped and malnourished, unresponsive and silent. He is now full of life and energy. Although still small for his age, he crawls unaided and walks with help. He makes word sounds and staff hope one day he’ll attend school.
Children’s names are changed and their photographs obscured for reasons of protection.