The move that Florence made back to Uganda was not without complaints mainly from her family. These thought that she was not being reasonable enough to come to a place where she had no job yet leaving behind numerous opportunities and a better life. But as luck would have it, she met 2 German ladies who were therapists and on sharing her dream with them, they were excited since it was similar to what they had in mind. This therefore saw the birth of Mukisa Foundation. This foundation had no where to be found because it was simply still a brain baby. It was not a fairy tale story for them as they tried to find a place to call home for it and this was a long search. On getting their first house which was in Kamwokya, all went well until the land lord inquired about what they would be using the house for. They happily shared their dream with him because they believed that since he was a parent, he would be intrigued. This was however not the case because as the land lord listened to the reason as to why they needed the house, he quickly handed them an envelope which contained all the money that they had paid for rent. The land lord said that there was no way he would allow them to use his house as these ‘mongos’ that they were to put in the house would be a bad influence to his children who would be just next door.
Ms.Namaganda says that at the time, it was so heartbreaking but now when she looks back, she says that it was a great blessing. They had to come out with a new plan and that was to start visiting homes with disabled children.
Starting with just 8 families in various locations, she visited these in a time-tabled manner. Ms.Namaganda taught the parents or guardians that their children were not bewitched, nor were the parents being punished for some wrong things that they had probably done but rather had medical problems. This she did by showing them pictures of Caucasian children who had similar deformities, pictures of how the deformities may occur; you may call it a way in which the deformities may come into the child’s life. She also went on to teach them how to take care for the children, how to withstand unfriendly behavior towards their children, how to support themselves, and she says this worked out so well. This was not without the hardships she faced with coordinating various homes in locations that were so far from each other. But as all this was going on, they had not given up on the search for a place to house their foundation. This was got in Lungujja on Kalema road in March 2005, and they moved in April that year.
This centre came with a vision to empower parents to become self reliant. This was done by teaching them how to make crafts, giving them the ability to start small businesses to take care of their families and the disabled children’s needs. The first members of this centre were the 8 families that Ms.Namaganda had been dealing with. The centre then went from these 8 to 10 then 20 families. By the time they were holding their Christmas party, they had over 100 families. This then necessitated another physiotherapist apart from Florence for the centre and much more funds which were got from friends and families.
The centre encouraged the parents to interact and share their experiences and this was therapy on its own. These stories shared were not happy stories, say, a taxi driver or conductor refusing to take a parent with a disabled child, the passengers walking out of a taxi because it contains parents with disabled children, but they brought strength to the parents knowing that they were not the only ones in this and that their children could also be loved despite their deformities. This in turn gave these three proprietors a reason to go on despite the fact that it was really overwhelming.
As time passed by, there were parents who started coming in with the hope that they could be able to leave their children at the foundation centre. These were turned down, though sadly done, because it was not the goal of the centre. These were parents that did not need to learn how to make crafts, sell tomatoes and the like so as to make a living, they were career parents.
The three brains behind the Mukisa Foundation then saw the need to create a place to cater for such parents. This therefore saw the birth of Dawn Special Children’s Centre which is found in Bukoto on Lutaaya drive. Many things changed due to the birth of this new centre, for example, time tabling the days that one was at a particular centre, looking for more therapists and many more people needed to care, teach and stay with these children throughout the day. Opening its doors at 7am and closing its doors at 6pm, Dawn Special Children’s Centre is a home away from home as well as a school for these children. It also came as a heaven sent place for the parents who do not have anyone to stay with the parents given the fact that the maids, even the best can not handle all the needs of these children.
Many services are offered at this centre like therapies of different kinds, special needs education. So we can comfortably say that the centre can cater for children who can not learn at the normal pace, for example, those that can not write with ease, and those that need to learn sign language. The centre also helps those children who may look normal but can not get the classroom materials real fast, for example, those that have dyslexia. These are helped through the formation of book clubs that empower these children with the ability to take a letter for what it is thus not mixing them up.
The centre also takes care of children who need one-off therapies just for assessment for one condition or another and this is done on appointment.
There are also a lot of extra-curricular activities that are done in this centre, for example, football, guess you are wondering how its done but its an effort that these children are taught to put in for every new day.
The centre is family of loving people working together for and with the children because this is the only way the children’s needs are met sufficiently. These include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, special needs teachers and children care takers. This sees them get bathed, fed, rested, taught and above all loved. So it means that there is a day care centre for the special needs children too.
Despite the fact that one of Ms.Namaganda’s friends is back in German for good, the centers are still running and Florence says that this has taught her that everything, however good, comes to an end as this also has helped her became more courageous to face each day.