An East Africa update from our CEO's latest visit
04 March 2021 12:07
Last week, our CEO and Co-Founder Carwyn Hill was super excited to be back in Uganda, spending his time vision setting with the local team and helping with a site survey for proposed land which is hoping to become a brand new hospital and school. Read more about this latest trip with some exciting project updates below:
It’s been a year (due to COVID19) since we’d last visited Uganda and it was a joy to be reunited to our local team and see the work moving forward. For the first 5 days of our trip we self isolated in Entebbe, before having COVID tests and then traveling to the field to see our projects.
We were accompanied on this trip by Guylee, an architect friend of HHA, who offered valuable assistance as we commissioned 3 new building projects! The first was our new disability centre in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement. This new centre will offer comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation services including prosthetic and orthotic care, physiotherapy and wheelchair provision. The centre itself is part of a wider vision and during the visit we got to spend 3 amazing days training 25 HHA Community Based Rehabilitation workers. These are an inspiring team (most refugees themselves) who are working passionately in the community advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. Thanks to remote support from partners Through The Roof, they’re already distributed almost 100 wheelchairs this year!
We also signed off on a new classroom block and library at a school we support as part of our emergency relief to the region. Whilst in the UK we begin to see light at the end of the COVID tunnel, it was sad to see the long-term impact COVID19 is going to have on communities such as these refugee settlements. With schools closed for almost the whole year, we heard several accounts of many children, mostly girls, dropping out from school, alongside a rise in teenage pregnancies and child marriage. Alongside this, the World Food Programme have reduced food rations by 40% in the last year due to funding challenges. The toll of COVID19 on the world’s poorest is perhaps just emerging…
Some of the team also had the opportunity to visit neighbouring South Sudan, where the impact of years of war were all too clear to see. A government referral hospital left empty, anything of value plundered and everything else left ransacked. There is now no referral hospital for this community and emergencies are referred to Juba (over 150km away on bad roads) or Uganda. One local says that it's a matter of life and death -‘women choose to live or to die'. Yet, amidst the devastation, our team are accompanied by some incredible pastors with a vision to rebuild their community. They show the team a large plot of land where HHA and the local community have a vision in the coming years to build a new hospital. They are men of great faith and Isaiah 58 is central to their vision - 'Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called repairer of broken walls, restorer of streets with dwellings.’ This was a passage that meant a lot to us after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It now resonates powerfully again with what the team witness here and with where our future vision is leading.
But for now, I’m once again challenged that it’s essential we don’t forget this is a global pandemic that requires a global response. As has been said many times, let’s build back better and build back in a way that tackles some of the grave inequalities COVID19 has only exasperated.