Aspen Day 6: Leaving Uganda

For the past decade, Adara has had the great privilege of partnering with Aspen. It has been an amazing partnership, which has shown us all the exponential power of linking the business sector with those in need in the developing world. Together, we have bridged worlds, and changed lives for the people of Kiwoko Hospital.

Each year, staff members from Aspen offices across the globe come to Kiwoko Hospital to see firsthand the impact of this partnership. Every year, they leave inspired. Here is their experience.

By Sophie Collins

Waking up at 5:30am the morning after a final dinner with our hosts; Adara and Hospital Staff, Nursing and Lab students and the Ebenezer Boys proved to be a challenge. I reflected on the long series of somewhat emotional but smiley goodbyes (and the hurried mass swapping of contact details) and was struck how in the little time we’ve spent here we’ve bonded so closely with members of the community, and how hard it feels knowing we must leave, potentially not to return.

Gathering with Rosie and Maddy (Adara Partnership and Communications Managers, Aussie angels, our trip leaders and support system for the week) for a final breakfast, the mood among the group was subdued, each of us quietly reflecting on the week’s experiences. We reluctantly piled into the vans for the 3 hour drive ahead of us down the red dirt track leading away from Kiwoko, back to the paved roads of Luwero and beyond. As we drove through the villages I thought again about the different people we had met and their contributions to this great project. I concluded that it was the people at Kiwoko that made it the remarkable place it is today. For that reason I thought I ought to tell you a little bit about some of those special people who made the greatest impact on me, and the group this year.

Dr. James Nyonyintono - acting Medical Director, surgeon, general practitioner and healer of body and soul, leader of morning prayers, keen chicken farmer, accomplished guitar player (accompaniment for hymn singing) and young father of two beautiful (and talkative!) little girls. He epitomizes the selfless spirit of Kiwoko; working 18-20 hour days and participating in many aspects of life at Kiwoko outside of his medical calling, despite being one of the busiest Doctors at the hospital. Dr. James has now worked at Kiwoko for 18 years.

Moses Ssekkidde, Head of CBHC (Community based healthcare) – Moses introduced us to the critical intervention initiatives delivered by the outreach team, and took us into the communities who are benefiting from CBHC, the homesteads in the villages surrounding Kiwoko. What I enjoyed most about our time with Moses was the warmth and joy that each of his community based clients expressed when they greeted him, like an old friend, and with such pride in showing us their homes. Moses has been dedicated to Kiwoko since the beginning (…. and he would want me to tell you that he features in Kiwoko founder Dr. Ian Clarkes book “The Man with the Key Has Gone” – highly recommended reading for the Kiwoko origin story – on page 144.)

William Kiwanuka, Head of HIV/AIDS Programme – William was orphaned by HIV early in life, and has dedicated himself to doing all he can to end the disease. His goal to create a generation free of HIV within the region is looking, incredibly, like an achievable prospect, thanks to William and his team. Like Moses, William is also regarded fondly by many of his clients, particularly by the young adults whom have grown up knowing the love and support of William and his counsellors through the Afaayo Club; a group where children and teens with HIV can play and talk freely, without stigma.
Dan Kabugo, Uganda Country Director at Adara – It’s Dan’s story that I found most challenging to hear and digest. Dan is 42, a Kiwoko resident, a budding comedian, father of 4 (soon to be 5) plus countless children he has adopted or sponsors, father figure (or “Uncle Dan”) to the Ebenezer boys, muzungu translater and guide, and general Kiwoko hospital legend. Dan is a happy man. He is a grateful man. Dan was a young teen during the worst years of the civil war, and narrowly survived the atrocities in the killing fields of the Luwero triangle. Of 20 homesteads in his village, just 1 family was spared. It was his. But Dan explained the consequences of those times weren’t limited to death, injury, poverty and emotional suffering. A generation was almost entirely wiped out. Those who were left had missed many years of schooling. And the necessity to rebuild a broken and traumatized community was prioritized, ahead of education. Dan, like many others, struggled for years to access and complete the standard Ugandan secondary education.

I became emotionally overwhelmed at Dan’s stoicism in re-telling his story, but also began to better understand the drive for his significant contributions to the community at Kiwoko, most recently to self-fund and build a pre-school on his property for children of hospital staff and care givers – his dream for the past 3 years but brought to life in the last 6 months. We found out later that he also personally sponsors the education of many children in need across the region. Dan has transformed his trauma and loss into a passion for enabling the education of others, and for this he is a hero. Dan is currently studying for his Masters degree in International Development.

There are so many wonderful people dedicating their lives to this hospital and the community. Their dedication is equalled only by their faith, and their hope. Whatever they have, they give, no matter how little. And they save lives, every day. I’ll be forever inspired by the people I’ve met here and am truly grateful to have experienced the special community that exists at Kiwoko.


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