by Sr. Helen Aherne MMM Ireland 11.11.2021
I first met Charles at a meeting organised by the Town Council in Masaka, Uganda. He wanted to do something for PWDs (persons with disabilities).
He had lost the power in his legs as a young child, running several miles to and from school every day. Now he was in a wheelchair and he was a young man, with a wife and 2 children. His wife worked their farm for food and sustenance and he had already collected a group which he called Apidam. They had aims like education for adults and children, skills training, ways of making themselves sustainable. This is what everyone wants in life for their families. The enthusiasm of the group was infectious. I was also infected! I saw how disabled these young people were and everything seemed against them, yet how big were their dreams. Over time I learned a lot about group work, advocacy and fundraising. But above all, self-giving was the order of the day. Nothing was too much for Charles. People were coming for help to send their children to school and needing jobs to earn some small money. Charles was like an axis around which everything turned. He needed a simple office but also a bigger building which could become a workshop, a school and offices. There were so many needs. But Charles’s patience, his availability, his willingness to spend time with people and his innate GOODNESS shone through. I was encouraged and happy to be part of the whole thing.
Many years later much good has been done. People were enabled to do more than they ever thought possible. There were no more beggars on the street. People with great disabilities were able to earn enough to live on in their homes. A good building was acquired. This is a school, built by a funding agency here in Ireland. People with disabilities are making a living from shoe making, hairdressing, dressmaking, animal husbandry. Even a visit to Ireland was made possible by the Funding Agency. People at the Agency actually cried when Charles and his companion talked about how much the peoples’ contributions had helped them to do.
I realized how rich I am with my vow of simple living, how selfish I am with my time, most of all, I realized the vast potential there is in everyone. Thank you Charles and your Apidam.