He has chosen to take matters into his own hands by doing something close to his heart: helping needy children.
Very soon, he will graduate from Uganda Christian University (UCU)- with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication. However, 24 year old Herbert Mukuru is not waiting to be called up to some office for a job interview. He has chosen to take matters into his own hands by doing something close to his heart: helping needy children. Mukuru recently started an initiative to help children with special needs. The initiative which he called Upendo Mikono (Charitable/loving hands) provides moral and material support to 75 children with different disabilities at Bishop West Primary school in Mukono.
Bishop West primary school is one of the government primary schools implementing inclusive education- a system in which learners with special needs learn are supposed to be integrated into an ordinary/normal learning environment. With 75 out of 555 pupils in the school having different disabilities and having very little facilities, implementing the system is proving difficult for school authorities. “Many of these children come from poor families. Some were abandoned at school by their guardians and many of our facilities in the special needs department are broken down,” says Matinyi. She has appealed for support to different people and organisations, with minimal success. Mukuru’s initiative has therefore come as a welcome intervention in a difficult environment.
Getting down to work
Mukuru started working with these children early this year following a needs assessment visit to the school. After obtaining permission from the head teacher, he started mobilising his university classmates and friends to visit and support these children. During his time at University, Mukuru has been mobilizing fellow students to go and spend time with the young special needs learners at Bishop West primary school. Having discovered that many of them lack basic amenities- he has spent this last semester collecting utilities like toilet paper, sanitary pads, sugar, soap, clothes from fellow students and taking them to the special needs unit of the Mukono school.
He recently opened an account where he has put some of his own pocket money in addition to financial donations from his friends to create a fund that will support several activities for his initiative. The last time we checked, there was sh 534,000 on this account. “We are planning to use some of this money to replace much needed facilities at the school, which no longer work; things like the fire extinguisher and also add some needed materials like mattresses and ” he said. His initiative has attracted the attention of some of his fellow students, six of whom have offered to join him. He has also been joined Faith Pacutho a lecturer at the University and three volunteers that now work with him to reach out to the young ones.
Mukuru relies on his passion for children and a desire to make a difference in the lives to carry on. “I have always wanted to work with children. So, I thought this was a very good opportunity for me to do something about my passion,” he says. Even though he did not have by way of money, he realized that mobilising his friends to support his work would be a good way to start. It was not an easy job starting out. “Some people turned me away. Others ignoired me. A few doubted my intentions,” he says.
All this has not discouraged him. Instead he has gone ahead to look for like-minded people to share his dream and passion.
Adam Mayanja, a journalism student at UCU and Mukuru’s classmate- has worked hard on this project. He says that the initiative has taught him a lot about life especially to always be compassionate to those that are less privileged.
Olive Birabi, the UCU director of student affairs, applauds Mukuru’s initiative as a good example of the all-round training at the university that enables students to find practical ways of positively impacting society. “He exemplifies the important life and Christian values that we impart into our students which is something to be commended,” she says.
Mukuru fact file
- Mukuru is the second born of three children. His father Samuel Kalyebara is a retired civil servant and now business man. His mum Betty Kalyebara Mutegeki is a medical practitioner. He attended St. Francis Primary school Ntinda to St. Lawrence’s London College and East High school in Ntinda
- Mukuru was always a leader and very active in scouting and student affairs.
- He hopes to launch Upendo Mikono in October this year and grow the initiative to do several other charity activities
READ THE FULL ACCOUNT OF MUKURU’S STORY IN THE NEW VISION TOMORROW