Fr. Senkaayi was attuned to the rejection of the deaf children by their parents, peers, community and society at large.
In one corner of a few acres of bushy hillside land in a remote village in Mpigi district stood a tiny dilapidated structure. Inside, a group of deaf children under the care of Fr. Anthony Senkaayi, a priest. His warm, jovial nature and ubiquitous smile hid a fierce doggedness to improve the world for deaf children in the face of overwhelming odds.
Having seen the opportunities accorded to the disabled as a student in the UK, Fr. Senkaayi was attuned to the rejection of the deaf children by their parents, peers, community and society at large.
He harboured a place in his heart for this group of vulnerable people, sometimes considered a judgment of biological defect and even referred to as kasiru (which loosely translates as ‘stupid one’).
Armed with nothing but his resolve and a piece of land purchased using his private savings from doing odd jobs as a university student, Fr. Senkaayi decided to do something about it.
He put up a home for deaf children – a modest facility in this village in the Nkozi area, with a tiny schoolhouse serving as dormitory by night for the deaf children and their guardian. Amid the everyday challenges, Fr. Senkaayi and co would raise enough from a few generous individuals to ensure the children were fed, clothed and given several useful life skills – beginning with sign language.
The children were availed an environment in which they could communicate, interact and play like any other children.
In early 2012, a letter reached the Ugandan office of AON Insurance. The mail detailed a request for financial support of a home for deaf children. It was the facility run by Fr. Senkaayi.
This letter, undoubtedly one of hundreds received by the brand that then appeared on the jersey of English and global footballing giant Manchester United, somehow made its way through a multitude of offices to the desk of the managing director.
He promptly dispatched one of the company officers to evaluate the project, marking the beginning of a journey of transformation for the humble establishment.
Indeed, it’s been a journey of metamorphosis.
The project has since grown into St. Anthony’s School for the Deaf, which Minet Uganda (formerly AON) has supported annually since its very humble beginnings.
The initial shack is long gone. The school now boasts of a dining hall with adjacent sleeping quarters, which used to serve all the purposes that the old structure did, but for a greater number of students.
A team of Minet staff recently visited the school and inaugurated a boys’ dormitory constructed with their generous support.
On their October 26 visit, the group found a community engaged in solving its own problems with meagre resources.
On his part, Fr. Senkaayi thanked the company for their sustained support, which over time has enabled the school develop its own farm of maize, over 6,000 chickens, 20 pigs and a herd of goats.
This feeds the children and enables them raise money for daily needs by selling eggs and other farm products. Fr. Senkaayi even set up a rudimentary generator-driven maize mill and workshop, at which his students acquire useful skills that should come in handy in the future.
Maurice Amogola, the chief executive of Minet Uganda, was impressed that one could achieve so much with so little.
He handed over a donation of foodstuffs and other items for the school’s daily use, calling it a “day well spent”.
“In our hearts, it is a day well spent, it is a day that the kids will remember that we played football with them, we have eaten with them, and a day when we have seen the hard work that has been done by Fr. Anthony and his team,” he said.
“We know that Fr. Anthony has a big vision and we pledge to support him going forward.”
After a day of speeches, games, dance and drama (and a crash course in sign language) the visiting team had strengthened the bond with the children and was happily sent off with a tray each of fresh eggs from the school’s farm.
Under glorious sunshine, guests were treated to a cocktail of dances as entertainers put on a great show, even forcing some of the visitors off their seats and onto the dance floor
A day of fun had plenty of activities on the cards. Some of the games involved getting wet and hands-on
Of course the most popular sport on earth had to feature!
The younger lot were, as expected, much fitter and quicker on the ball
But it wasn't just soccer. The ball was ever rising as players on opposing ends in this friendly sporting affair tussled it out on the volleyball court
There was also a crash course in sign language as both the children and their beloved visitors interacted. A jovial Minet boss Maurice Amogola was at the heart of the engaging exchange
It was more interaction as Fr. Senkaayi (wearing glasses) channeled his communication via sign language. He has seen his brainchild transform tremendously in only a few years, thanks to a helping hand in the form of Minet Uganda
Fr. Senkaayi was also delighted to take his visitors on a tour of some of the projects at the school, including the poultry barn
On the farm is a barn with as many as 6,000 birds
It has become a self-sustaining farm
The Minet team inaugurated a boys’ dormitory constructed at the school with their generous support
It was all smiles as the boys relaxed in the dormitory
Minet Uganda CEO Maurice Amogola and Fr. Anthony Senkaayi planted a tree that day
A very resourceful day it was. Minet Uganda donated several items to the school. Right is CEO Amogola
The friendly sporting activities had winners too. But generally, everyone was a winner.
And the visitors were happily sent off with a tray each of fresh eggs from the school’s farm
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