What you need to know:
- In conjunction with Hope Always International, a rehabilitation centre, the 30-year-old is determined to ride his bicycle to more than 100 countries in a bid to raise funds for the children with severe disabilities.
Aged 30, Mr Ronald Ssekitoleko has no intentions of giving up on his lifelong dream of bettering the lives of hundreds of severely disabled children who need corrective surgery, food, clothing, education and other basic needs.
While cycling could be a hobby for many people, Ssekitoleko—a trained social worker—is determined to ride his bicycle to more than 100 countries in a bid to raise funds for the children with severe disabilities by creating awareness about their plight.
Ssekitoleko is doing this in conjunction with Hope Always International, a rehabilitation centre at Kiwoko Town Council, Nakaseke District.
The centre takes care of more than 100 children with severe disabilities.
While flagging off Ssekitoleko for the World Missionary Cycling Tour for children with disabilities on June 25, Ms Hellen Grace Asamo—the Disability Affairs junior minister—lauded the 30-year-old for taking part in a noble cause.
“When I learnt that Ssekitoleko was to start a world cycling campaign going beyond the borders of Uganda, I remembered Marco Polo—the great explorer who went around the world hundreds of years ago. It is not easy, but the awareness campaign for children with severe disabilities is worth the sacrifice,” Ms Asamo said.
She added: “It is unfortunate that several children living with severe disabilities suffer denial and are isolated by not only their parents but even the community. Some are locked up in filthy houses deliberately or out of ignorance by their respective guardians and parents. We cannot do everything, but each individual has the ability to make a better future for these children.”
Mr Ssekitoleko said his cycling awareness campaign will not only touch the lives of children under the care of Hope Always International but also other people in countries that he plans to visit.
“If we can have individuals contributing Shs500 for the campaign, the lives of the many children who have severe disabilities can easily be improved. I pray that my missionary cycling journey gets a blessing. We expect to raise awareness through this campaign,” he said.
Back at the rehabilitation centre, Ssekitoleko revealed that several children with severe disabilities have been diagnosed with the Hydrocephalus disease and need corrective surgery at designated health facilities.
“We have been trying to have some of these children connected to facilities where the corrective surgery can be administered, but their respective parents and guardians are not able to meet the medical bills,” he said, adding, “Some of the children have been abandoned and need total support of the care facility.”
During his second year at university, Mr Ssekitoleko met several families which had children with severe disabilities while doing a coursework assignment.
“I was a student and young boy without any money to offer as help to the families which had children with severe disabilities,” he recalls, adding, “I tried my best to connect the families to the different health facilities, but the challenges were many.”
He admitted that while cycling “may not generate the funds needed”, it helps him carry “the message of hope and share the stories about the plight of the children with severe disabilities.”
He added: “Anybody can make a contribution, including the provision of tricycle wheelchairs… When we finally construct the buildings, Rotary Foundation has patterned to have the equipment purchased and fitted at the centre. We have the land and have started construction works. We also welcome materials, including bricks.”
Ms Balita Nabakooza, 66, takes care of a 10-year-old boy with severe disabilities. She told Sunday Monitor that it pains her greatly that the boy’s parents are unable to fend for him.
“The boy cannot walk, but simply crawls on the floor like a baby. I got stuck and decided to approach Hope Always International for assistance. It is my prayer that my grandson is assisted to live a better life. We do not have the money to take the boy to a specialised health facilities where several of the medical experts have at different times recommended,” she told Sunday Monitor, barely hiding her emotions.
Ms Asamo says while the government has taken steps to put in place guidelines and policies to support persons with disabilities, it is the responsibility of every parent to take care of their respective children.
“I grew up with a disability, but was lucky that my mother took care of me, including taking me to school at a time when some relatives thought it was a waste of time and resources. I’m now the State Minister for Disability Affairs,” she said.
She added that the government has secured Shs14b in special grants for persons with disabilities for the new financial year.
“This is not a loan, but a grant. Our people should be assisted to get this money through the responsible gender department at the district,” she said.
In Nakaseke District, a 2017 study conducted by the district health department revealed that about 200 children were suffering from the Hydrocephalus disease in the three sub-counties of Kikamulo, Nakaseke and Kasangombe.
While several of the children had received medical help at Nakaseke Hospital, they still required specialised medical attention at respective referral facilities. Many parents reportedly abandoned the referral advice due to lack of funds, while others did not complete the required dosage, the report revealed.