Joakim was born blind but fortunately could hear, unlike his elder brother James who was born deaf and blind. The two boys have a strong bond of love and can often be found spending time together, although communication is of course very limited and their lives can be lonely and boring. When Joakim was three and James five years old their mother left them, unable to cope with the stigma associated with giving birth to two blind children.
Ester Kikusa, a truly remarkable and dynamic woman, undertook to marry the boys’ father and take on looking after them together with her own children. It is difficult to express how exceptional was Ester’s brave decision, defying all the usual socially accepted norms concerning disability in rural Uganda. What a saint! She even finds time to get involved with village and community affairs, especially women’s groups, and is a positive presence to be reckoned with.
Joakim and his family came to the attention of RAPCD (the Rwenzori Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities.) Joakim has such a positive attitude that RAPCD naturally sought a way to help him get some education. His family are extremely poor and could barely afford to feed all of their children. Education was a pipedream. So RAPCD approached Accomplish Children’s Trust for help. A wonderful family stepped up to sponsor Joakim.
For several years, Joakim seemed happy at school and made progress up to grade 3. However, he then started to under-achieve and struggled with Braille. Concerns were raised. Joakim was becoming deaf, just like James. It is difficult to imagine how devastating this was.
Back in his home village, the future seemed bleak. It was such a struggle to provide for the growing family, yet Ester soldiered on. RAPCD was determined that a better future could be created for this family. They put together a plan and again asked Accomplish to help. Once more, the lovely York-based family wanted to support not only Joakim but the whole family. They bought Ester a knitting machine to create an income for the family. Strange as it may seem in such a hot climate, Ugandans can feel cold in wintertime. Knitted garments are scarce and in great demand. Ester’s machine has made a huge difference to the family’s welfare.
And plans for Joakim? A piggery has been built for Joakim, again sponsored by Accomplish’s generous family. Looking after pigs will be difficult, but the family are determined; Ester is determined; Joakim is determined. Their future is now so much brighter. Happily Joakim’s hearing has returned – and long may that be the case.
Ester and Joakim’s story is one that has evolved over several years, involved many people working together in partnership and shows the triumph of love and persistence against seemingly impossible odds. It’s particularly a tribute to two fantastic people and the many lessons they teach us.