Esther & Irene

Esther (13) and Irene (7), two girls with totally different characters. Esther is cheerful and curious. Irene is shy and very polite. But the girls have a few things in common; they are both from Amudat district, go to school in Kalas girls Catholic primary school and live with a disability. Esther suffers from a post-burn contraction as the result of an accident with fire at home when she was a baby. Irene contracted tuberculosis as a young child, which left untreated entered the bones and caused retarded growth and development. Gladly we were able to take the girls to the hospital.

Irene, Esther, Irene’s sister and their mothers in Entebbe zoo with Dorian Cosijnse, a day before Esther’s operation

Story of Esther

Esther never received treatment for the damage caused by the accident. We learned about her situation when the ministry of Gender shared a list of vulnerable girls identified during their visit to Amudat. Esther is the first girl in her family to ever access education. Her mother used to collect Aloe Vera to pay for Esther’s fees. Her disability was probably the only reason why her father allowed her to go to school, knowing he would not receive a full dowry for his daughter. Esther has always embraced her education and more so when she was enrolled in the scholarship and taken from a remote village school to Kalas girls primary school. The day we told Esther about our plans to take her to the hospital, she was very excited. The girl had endured pain in her arm and elbow for years, because the bones, veins and muscles were affected by the fire.

Esther in the hospital ward, after her operation

Regular visit

Dorian Cosijnse visited Esther regularly in the hospital. And one of the sisters from Kalas girls came to visit her too.

The story of Irene

Irene’s mother died when she was young. After being abandoned by her father, she came into the care of her auntie. Irene’s auntie does not differentiate between Irene and her own five biological children and loves all of them wholeheartedly. She took Irene to the hospital in Mbale when she was first diagnosed with tuberculosis at a young age. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a translator to help her out and finances were limited. By then, Irene’s body was already affected. Most villagers never expected the child to survive. The first few years, Irene could not walk at all. Her auntie narrates: “Irene was moving like a snake and was sick all the time. I feared for her life”.

Fortunately, she gradually improved and is now able to walk, although with difficulty. Walking long distances causes her back pain.

First weeks of school

The first few weeks, Irene felt very uncomfortable in school. She locked herself in the latrine every day, feeling too ashamed to move around. Fearing other children would laugh at her. The teachers and sisters tried their best to comfort her. Fortunately counselling and continuous talking helped Irene to feel more comfortable in school and to grow a her confidence. Seeing other children with disabilities was a positive experience for her. She realized that she is not the only child with an irregular appearance.

Irene during her physiotherapy

Thankful for the good care

The two girls and their mothers are happy with the medical attention. Altogether, we are very grateful for the good care given to our children. Children with disabilities face a lot of stigma in Uganda, so to be treated which such great attention, love and respect was a great experience for all of us.