Phil, a volunteer from Amigos Farm has been to visit Lucy in Uganda, whom Interface helped last year – please read the following update:
‘When I Look in the Mirror I Feel Beautiful’
Lucy had a terrible time growing up because she looked different from everybody else – she was born with a cleft lip. As a young girl she didn’t go to school because the bullying from other kids was simply too much to bear. Many days she simply hid away in her mud hut, unable to face anyone in her village. Often at night she cried herself to sleep, wondering what she had done to deserve such a fate. When she should have been living a carefree life, playing with other kids and not worrying about anything, Lucy felt like she had the world’s heaviest burden on her shoulders. It simply wasn’t fair.
In the UK babies born with a cleft lip receive corrective surgery at three months, but Lucy’s family was very poor and even if they had known surgery was possible, they couldn’t afford medical help. This meant this young girl had no hope for the future, what would become of her?
Throughout her tender, formative, years Lucy was frequently called a ‘joke’ because of her appearance – a cruel word often used to describe disabled people in Uganda. Lucy’s family were very embarrassed, they believed Lucy’s condition must be a result of someone putting a curse on them and tried to keep her out of sight. ‘We don’t have mirrors, but on the rare occasion I caught sight of myself, perhaps in a piece of broken glass. I always felt miserable,’ Lucy explains.
Amigos first came into contact with Lucy when she joined one of our conservation farming groups in Gulu. We were keen to help her receive medical attention so we contacted a charity called Interface Uganda, who are based in Exeter.
‘When Amigos took my picture I didn’t realise anything was going to happen, I just thought they wanted a photo of me,’ says Lucy. Lucy didn’t dare hope that her problem could be fixed, so she was amazed when Interface Uganda arranged for her to receive corrective surgery at CoRSU hospital in Kampala – they even found a number of other people in surrounding villages with the same condition and operated on everyone at the same time. Interface Uganda provided all of this care completely free. ‘I couldn’t believe someone would do this for me, a humble woman from the village,’ smiles Lucy.
After the surgery it took a little while to adjust. ‘Drinking was very difficult,’ explains Lucy, ‘and I had to concentrate hard on speaking with my new lips. But I am unbelievably happy, I never thought this day would come.’
‘When I came home everyone in my village was so surprised to see me and best of all, people at the local market didn’t even recognise me. The same people who had mocked me all my life now stared at me in shock – they couldn’t believe it was the same Lucy. My husband is very happy and everyone is saying great things about me. I feel so good. Thank you!’