Local charity embraces Ugandan project

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If you thought the recent drop in temperature was a real ordeal, imagine how you’d deal with about a 50-degree change.

That’s the situation for Bev and Paul Carrick of the Embrace International Foundation, who recently returned from a 13-day trip to Uganda in central Africa to donate motorcycles to the staff of the Kyaninga Child Development Centre (KCDC) in Fort Portal.

The project saw Paul, along with five Canadians and one British donor, pay $5,700 apiece for a Simba Tekken motorcycle which they rode through western Uganda before handing over the keys to a KCDC staffer. In future, the bikes will be used by physio and speech therapists, and other medical specialists, to attend to more than 900 disabled children in remote areas of the region.

After landing at Entebbe airport, the group, along with Bev, support staff and a vehicle, headed to the capital city of Kampala, where the bikes were purchased.

The bikes, said Paul, are an interesting mix of Honda 250cc engines, plastic parts from India and electronics from China, which are all bolted together in Uganda by Simba Automotives – thus avoiding some taxes, creating work for Ugandans and ensuring parts are easily available. Simba also donated helmets, gloves and quality rainsuits for the KCDC staffers’ use.

“It was a great trip, memorable for sure,” said Bev Carrick. “We sent money ahead to make sure the motorcycles were purchased, you never know in a developing country. And we wanted to make sure we could get the donors out on the road.”

Often, said Carrick, when it comes to donors forking over funds to a charity group like Embrace, those donating like to see how their funds are used, which is where the motorcycle trip comes in. “They used them for two weeks and ultimately handed over the keys to the organization which will use them. The trip included some home visits to see some kids, which was quite exciting.”

The trip also included trips to game parks like Murchison Falls National Park and the Mountains of the Moon area.

As might be expected in a region of less than ideal roadways, there were some spills, particularly for the British rider, who had a couple of crashes which required medical work by Bev, a former nurse, and Victoria, B.C. doctor Gord Zacharias, one of the donors/bikers.

“He had some crashes,” said Carrick, “and we finally told him ‘you really have to be careful,’ but an hour later he crashed and broke his ankle.”

The Kyaninga Child Development Centre was founded by Steve Williams, a Brit who set up a safari lodge in Uganda, and his wife Asha, three years ago. Their first child had cerebral palsy and, after the couple couldn’t find suitable medical services flew in a personal physiotherapist to work with their child.

“But he thought it was ridiculous to have one physiotherapist for one child and they founded the centre. Now they look after 900 children monthly,” said Carrick. “They have 16 full-time staff, all Ugandans, including physio, speech and occupational therapists, even a specialist who fixes club feet.

“It’s a life changing charity and we asked him what his vision was, as we’re looking for groups to support, he said he wants to set up seven more centres in Uganda.”

With the home visits, the group saw dedicated moms living in mud huts and the way physiotherapists created parallel bars for youngsters out of bamboo – basic local solutions created from basic local materials.

“We’ve done this kind of work all our life,” said Carrick, “and I was very impressed with how appropriate the interventions were for the kids. It’s so important to have early interventions with CP or other disabilities.

“In some places a mother with a disabled child sees the father leave and sometimes there is no hope for children for years. Some remain in the house because they can’t get out as there is no assistance. It’s very, very difficult.

“If help is there early enough, though, with malnutrition or speech therapy, it can make a huge difference in children’s lives.”

According to the Carricks, disabled children and their mothers living in remote areas often have to spend two days worth of income to charter local taxis to travel to the center for treatments. With the new motorcycles, project staff will be able to increase the number of home visits they make, improving their care and reducing the financial burden on these families.

Included in the journey, were the Carricks, Zacharias and Eldo Enns, Paul Derry, John Stafford, Dave Huck and Chris Dalgarno.

For more on Embrace, visit www.embracecanada.ca.

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