Mrs. Edith Lukabwe fought back tears as she delivered her acceptance speech after she and her organization Home of Hope were chosen as the 2022 winner of the Award for Volunteerism. The recognition is given to one outstanding local organization by the International Volunteer Organisations of Uganda (TIVOU), an umbrella organization that brings together international and local volunteer agencies.
Mrs. Lukabwe, popularly known as Maama Edith around Jinja city founded Home of Hope in 2007 as a place of refuge for children with multiple disabilities, after a difficult period during which she suffered discrimination, psychological pain and poverty that all happened when she was nursing her son Derrick who had acquired disability due to a meningitis attack.
“My son Derrick Lukabwe (who eventually passed away in 2014) had meningitis but was misdiagnosed as malaria. He developed poor head control and my family thought I was cursed. When I took Derrick to the health facility, I discovered that there were many more children with multiple disabilities. Unlike Derrick, most of the children were in the care of their grandparents, who could not help them perform physiotherapy exercises.”
Mrs. Lukabwe recounted that from her personal experience coupled with the suffering that many more children with disabilities faced, she chose to dedicate more time to caring for them after she realized they didn’t have as much love as the rest of the children.
“In 2003, two years after I gave birth to Derrick, I started to visit the homes of some of the children with disabilities, to wash for them because most of them were living with their grandparents who couldn’t do some of the demanding tasks. With time I started to invite the children to our home because the number had grown and I couldn’t go round everyone’s home,” recalls Mrs. Lukabwe.
With more children under her care, she needed a legal backing to ensure that she could have the children. In 2007, she registered Home of Hope as a home for disadvantaged children and we baptized it Home of Hope.”
Perhaps as a testimony that indeed there are many children with multiple disabilities who are often marginalized not only by their parents but also by the community, Mama Edith, now has in her care 93 children, with most of them originating from around Jinja city and surrounding districts.
Mrs Lukabwe’s heart of gold has received commendation from a number of local and international volunteer organisations, many of whom do similar work and experience similar challenges.
While speaking at the Awards ceremony held at the offices of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in Kololo, Mr. Cho Soongoh, the Deputy Country Director of KOICA, praised Home of Hope founders for their selfless sacrifices and dedication to rescuing children from maginalisation and poor healthcare by nurturing them and advocating for them.
Mr. Cho said: “I would like to extend my gratitude to Home of Hope for all the support towards children living with a disability. Persons with special needs are disproportionately poor, and more likely to be unemployed or under-employed. They do not have access to adequate education or healthcare. They face barriers, not only to basic opportunities and services but to participation in society itself. They are estimated to make up more than 10 percent of the world’s population. Yet, all too often, they are marginalized and excluded. Your dedication and commitment are recognized.”
Drawing from the theme of last year’s International Volunteers Day celebrations, Mr. Cho said: “The theme of the 2022 International Volunteer Day: “Solidarity through volunteering” seeks to highlight the power of our collective humanity to drive change through volunteerism. The theme also draws lessons on how Volunteerism and solidarity share the same root values – supporting each other from a position of trust, humility, respect, and equality.”
Mrs. Lukabwe’s selflessness attracted unanimous admiration and praise from all representatives of TIVOU member organisations.
Mr. Fukuhara Ichiro, the Senior Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also expressed hope that the award to Home of Hope, would raise its profile and visibility so that other people can offer more support to some of its needs including the need to pay or train physiotherapists, besides the need to meet the kids’ daily sustenance.
Mr. Fukuhara expressed the hope that the award to Home of Hope, would raise society’s awareness about the need to give similar care, love and compassion and access to all social services as that enjoyed by the rest of society.
Since its establishment, Home of Hope has expanded from taking care of a handful of children with disabilities and now has nearly 100 children who are resident at the care home. The facility also retains health workers ranging from physicians as well as physiotherapists.
During the Awards ceremony, Mrs. Lukabwe shared her vision of establishing a university dedicated to the teaching of physiotherapists. This, she said arose from the fact that the country has very few people trained in physiotherapy.
Besides bestowing the award, TIVOU members mobilized resources and bought a number of items that included food, mattresses, laundry and medical supplies to help Home of Hope to take care of the children.
25 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly designed every December 5 25 as the day for commemorating the contributions and tireless efforts by international volunteers towards peace and development through their sacrifices and work in less privileged communities.
Mr. Moses Mubiru, the Country Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) said that the donation is meant to appreciate the work of volunteers in Uganda as important players in promoting peace and the realization of Sustainable Development Goals.(SDGs).