Interview with founder and trustee, Rebecca Cornish
Accomplish Children’s Trust was founded in November 2008 to support children with disabilities in Africa through the advancement of health, education and the Christian faith. Rebecca Cornish, a physiotherapist, developed the idea during the three years that she spent working at Kagando Hospital in Uganda. During her time there, from the summer of 2005 until July 2008, she became involved with SADICH and RAPCD, two organizations founded by the parents of disabled children. After she returned to the UK she wanted to continue supporting these foundations financially and to eventually help children with disabilities elsewhere in Africa. Here, she explains her vision in her own words:
Q. Why did you choose to go to Uganda and in what capacity did you work there?
I first travelled to Uganda one summer during my time at the University of East Anglia studying physiotherapy. I figured that if I returned, I would go as a physiotherapist, with a skill to offer. I also wanted to work in Africa as a Christian.
A year after leaving university, I applied to different Christian charities and Africa Inland Mission accepted me. I was assigned to Kagando Hospital in Uganda.
The job was kind of “Blue Peter” physiotherapy. I was treating all sorts of conditions and doing different kinds of physiotherapy. The job involved training, providing services, communicating with specialist doctors, arranging for visiting doctors to come to the hospital, looking after visiting expats, etc.
Q. Accomplish Children’s Trust has been working with SADICH and RAPCD since the start. How did you come across these charities?
One of my best friends at Kagando, a pediatric nurse called Toks, gave me a leaflet from SADICH. I started to help SADICH by funding them and by assessing the children they were trying to help.
I wrote an application on SADICH’s behalf for a £2,500 grant for carpentry tools and a teacher. We then discovered that tools could be obtained free from Tools With A Mission, provided that we paid shipping costs. Therefore, this grant money enabled SADICH to afford sewing machines and land, with agreement from the grant-making organisation.
I promised to raise money to eventually construct a building on that land with wheelchair access, to act as SADICH’s headquarters and function as a vocational training centre for carpentry and tailoring. Training people with disabilities to earn a living gives them a sense of wellbeing and an income, which leads their families and communities to recognize that they are valuable and useful.
The tools eventually arrived in January 2009. SADICH now teaches young adults with disabilities, as well as parents of severely disabled children, to make furniture.
SADICH already had four sewing machines, which they rented to local tailors. Now they have 24 machines which they allow tailors to use for free provided that they train members of SADICH in their craft.
The local way of life relies heavily on small-scale, labour-intensive farming, which can be difficult for people with physical disabilities. SADICH is therefore providing training in carpentry, craft making and tailoring to allow young people with disabilities to make a living outside of farming and prove themselves as valuable members of society.
Q. What inspired you to start Accomplish Children’s Trust?
I promised to continue supporting SADICH after I left Uganda. SADICH and nearby RAPCD are trying to change parents’ attitudes to their disabled offspring so they respect and value their children and arrange for them to be educated.
Operations are expensive and can cost between one and four months’ pay, for someone with an average salary. School fees are also costly, especially considering that it is normal in Uganda to have eight or nine children – six is considered few. Unfortunately, disabled children tend to be their parents’ last priority when it comes to paying for education.
We want to make sure children with disabilities have the opportunity to 'accomplish' their potential, hence our name.
In Africa I was on a faith-based mission. The idea was that God wanted you out there and would provide for your needs, which he did and in my case there was money leftover to support the hospital where I worked. In Africa, much more than in the West, there is a sense that God is in control, knows where things will come from, and He will provide. I definitely feel that this is what God wants and if it’s God’s will He will make it happen; all we have to do is follow.
Q. One of Accomplish's objectives is the advancement of the Christian faith; what does this mean?
Five of the six Accomplish trustees are Christians, as are the founders of SADICH and RAPCD. We want to honour God and make him the centre of our work. RAPCD and SADICH pray with the children they care for. As trustees, we pray too and we send prayer letters to our supporters. We are striving for an awareness that God loves and cares for these children, which is why we established Accomplish.