Maternity and children's hospital
Improving Chances has supported the development of a small maternity and children's hospital in Rwibaale, which is in the Kyenjojo District of Western Uganda, 219 km from Kampala City and 83 km from Fort Portal.
The hospital has provided much needed services to the rural population which is made up largely of subsistence farmers living in small villages deep in the jungle, connected by poor roads and with transport only by foot, bicycle or hired motorcycle.
The project has been led by Sister Mukanyangezi, the Superior General of the Banyatereza Sisters in Fort Portal who initially developed a Health Unit in 1995 from a couple of rooms in the Sisters’ House. The Unit was meant to provide simple treatment to the Sisters and the workers and students from a nearby school. Once established it also attracted patients, particularly mothers and their children, from nearby villages and its reputation has grown to such an extent that patients travel long distances to be treated there.
In early 2008 the Banyatereza Sisters started a project to develop the Health Unit and provide much needed accommodation to support a wider range of clinical services. Their plans for the hospital are supported by the Government District Director of Health Services who provides the vaccines and drugs that are administered by the Health Unit.
Local people have contributed to the development of the hospital by allocating five acres of land and raising 22,500,000 UGX (approximately £15,000.) This enabled the Banyatereza Sisters to start construction and lay the foundations in 2008 for Phase I of the development comprising an outpatient facility with a dispensary which replaced the services of the Health Unit.
Since then the Sisters have made great progress building Phase II of the project which includes a maternity ward, theatre and post-natal ward. Phase III will see the development of a children's ward, female ward and nursing quarters.
Improving Chances also aims to help children disabled by disease or birth injury by supporting the activities of the Good Shepherd School for children with special needs in Fort Portal.
This school, the vision of Sr. Theresa Abigaba who is from Fort Portal, was opened in 2008. It is the first of its kind in Western Uganda to provide education for children with learning difficulties who are frequently stigmatised and discriminated against and find it difficult to cope in school or, in many cases, impossible to attend.
The school now provides specialist teaching in small classes to more than 140 children, including a vocational group of young people. However, many children remain isolated in distant villages, unable to reach the school and desperately in need of help to learn even the simplest skills. Their parents, who often have no access to advice or support, are struggling with children who are seen in the community as a burden. Sr. Theresa needs help, transport, equipment and specialist expertise to reach out to work with these children and their families within their own communities.
Why Fort Portal?
Our links with Fort Portal go back more than 50 years. Improving Chances trustee Pat Scampion, a recently retired consultant paediatrician from Bolton, lived as a child in Fort Portal where her father was District Medical Officer.
After specialising in the care of children with disabilities and long term illness in the UK, Pat was delighted to meet Sr. Theresa through mutual friends, and to offer her practical support in setting up her school; the Good Shepherd School in Fort Portal. Pat has now been to Uganda on a number of occasions and has travelled around the area visiting villages and schools looking at the needs of the children there, and advising Sr. Theresa on the particular health and development challenges presented by the children starting at the school.
Sr. Theresa herself is a teacher, with postgraduate qualifications in Educational Leadership and Special Needs from Manchester University. She is a Sister of the Banyatereza order, the Sisters of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, a Catholic order established in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda in the 1930s. Improving Chances, however, is nondenominational, and although pleased to work with the dedicated and dynamic Sr. Theresa, the charity is not specifically affiliated to any one faith or church.