Opio Peter is a community based rehabilitation volunteer who is part of the Kumi Community Foundation team in Uganda.
Here Elspeth writes about how he became involved in the charity.
I first met Opio Peter in 2009 when we asked him to repair the leaking thatched roof of a mud hut belonging to the abandoned mother of a boy who was so disturbed that she had to tie his ankles together. I was shocked to see this naked boy, alone with no food or water and unable to move far due to his restraints. We waited till the mother returned from the market where she had been desperately trying to scrounge some food for the boy. The nearest neighbour was Peter who willingly agreed to repair the roof if we provided the grass. We gave him two chickens to thank him and, on passing by on a later day, we found the chickens had laid eighteen eggs between them on the top of two sacks filled with maize cobs. These eggs hatched, grew into healthy birds and were bartered for goats which, in turn, produced kids which grew and were bartered for a cow with some remaining goats to repeat the process. Now, Peter could provide milk for his family and sell the surplus. Then one of the cows gave birth to a he-calf which was not such disappointing news as it grew into a strong ox. We bought Peter a simple plough made by the local blacksmith and now he could, not only plough his land, but also earn money by ploughing his neighbours’ land.
Peter had a five year old son, Moses, who was seriously brain damaged following a prolonged birth and was unable to stand. Martin and I had reached their home with me on the back of his motorbike as this is how we travelled in my younger days! We decided to show Peter how to construct parallel bars. They took their pangas (machetes) to cut down some long, straight branches, dug deep holes in the earth and, with six forked and two long branches lashed together with grass, the bars were ready for Moses to stand for the first time. I remember him crying as the soles of his feet were as tender as the day he was born and the dead leaves were brittle but he struggled on and, before we finally let him rest, he could sit, stand, turn round and take steps along the bars. He can now walk and run unaided and he also attends school where I doubt he will achieve any academic status but he is learning how to integrate with other children and to learn social skills.
Peter has become an important member of our team as he communicates with neighbouring families and soon learns if there is a child in need of rehabilitation. He can recognise the importance for parallel bars to enable the children to walk and construct them without our advice. He contacts our hospital team if a home visit is required and we will go to the home to assess the child and the family as a whole. He gets little recompense: 15,000 UGX (£3.00) for a day with us otherwise he is very happy with his lot. We helped him start an orchard of improved oranges and, in November, his trees were laden with heavy fruit waiting to be sacked and collected for market. He is now independent in his own right but, without him, we would not be able identify so many children who may need surgery, admission to the Nutrition Unit if malnourished or requiring aids or seating made in the hospital Orthopaedic Workshop at Kumi Hospital.
Peter wears my husband, Chris’ maroon golf polo shirt with pride and has named his last born after Chris. He wrote a letter to us saying that he would work for us until his last day on earth!
So, we recognise Peter’s importance and position within the Kumi Community Foundation and thank him for everything he does.