Please read this about William Baluku, who Interface has funded to find people with disabilities in remote areas of Uganda and bring them to CoRSU hospital for treatment.
Tell me about yourself
I am William Baluku, married, from Kasese, Western Uganda.
What are your qualifications?
I am a nurse by profession but also did further studies in Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and in Tuberculosis (TB) and Leprosy Control supervision up to the district level. I also qualified as a Trainer of Trainers (ToT) of CBR workers.
What exactly do you do at CoRSU?
I currently work as a community mobiliser. My work entails creating awareness about clefts, post burn contractures and other disabilities. I also carry out assessments to screen those who may benefit from other CoRSU services before referring them there.
What impact does your work have?
First of all, through my work people’s attitudes towards disability in general have changed. They now believe in surgical interventions, something they did not believe in before. The numbers of people seeking CoRSU services have also risen because more people are now aware about the services offered there, most especially adults. For example, a district councillor was operated on to repair the cleft lip that he had lived with for more than 40 years, and now he is a CoRSU ambassador in his district and helps us to get patients.
Do you think more people are managing to get treatment for their disabilities?
Yes, more people now know about medical interventions so they are more open to coming to the hospital.
What stops some people from coming to the hospital for treatment?
There are many things that stop people from seeking treatment in hospitals, but the major ones are; traditional beliefs and abject poverty. Some people can barely afford 2 meals a day, so medical intervention for a disability is the last thing on their minds.
What are some of the challenges you encounter whilst doing your work?
At first I used to collide with other mobilisers from other organisations, because we were basically mobilising the same patients. But with time people got to trust me, so now it is easier.
Another challenge is that more often the district leaders ask for facilitation before they assign me someone to take me around, and I of course don’t have such money on my budget. When they insist I end up giving them my lunch money. Convincing people to come to the hospital is still not that easy. Some people have lived with the disabilities for so long that they have gotten used to the situation so they don’t see a reason to go to the hospital. There are times when I mobilise people and refer them to the hospital, but when they don’t have money to bring them or contribute towards their treatment. This demoralises me because I leave them in tears.
How much travelling do you do?
I move a lot. I use public means, so sometimes it takes me the whole day to travel to a given district. The challenging thing is that some places are too remote so there are no public means of transport whatsoever. In such instances I use boda bodas (motorcycles) or trucks. But again, the roads are so bad, and in other places the bridges have given way, so I cross rivers by foot.
What have been your best and saddest moments so far?
My best moment is every time I see people’s lives changed after getting treatment at CoRSU. For example I saved two babies who were about to be killed because they had clefts. They have now been reintegrated into their communities after surgery.
There is a time I referred patients to the hospital but they were sent back because they did not have any money to contribute towards their treatment. Up to now they are on the waiting list. That has been my worst moment so far.
What inspires you?
I enjoy doing what I do. In fact I am proud of my job. So that in itself inspires me. But also the fact that I see people’s lives change keeps me going.
What is the way forward?
I would appreciate better facilitation most especially when I am travelling in remote areas because it is very expensive to find decent accommodation or even meals.