In Uganda, health services in public facilities are allegedly free. Based on a referral basis, quite often healthcare workers extract money from their clients based on the sheer desperation of the patient. Too often, children are put in compromising situations. Costly surgeries are the only alternative to life-saving treatment.
In 2012, a volunteer from Canada was working in Uganda when he came across a distressed father, begging for help for his sick daughter. As it turns out, the man's daughter wasn't merely sick, but in fact, fighting a battle with cancer.
“She had a lower lumbar tumor the size of a mango. We went together to the main hospital and found that they had no supplies or equipment to carry out the necessary tests to determine what to do,” explained the Canadian volunteer in an email to PWB.
After a short, stressful search, the man from Canada took the father to a private clinic across the street, where they would provide a service that could do a biopsy of the tumour. Once the tumor was identified, they would then proceed to surgically remove it. The entire process, from the consultation to the final surgery cost just $250.00, a colossal amount for this man and others like him in Uganda, where World Bank reported that almost 20 percent of people in Uganda live below the poverty line.
It was this incident, along with a few more, that positioned this volunteer from Canada to do more. That volunteer was Glenn Pascoe, the co-founder of One4Another (O4A). In 2012, alongside his sister, Wendy Hayhoe, Pascoe created the organization as a means to give back through health and medicinal treatment to individuals who might otherwise never get it. Due to intense levels of poverty in Uganda, many parents, though willing, are unable to afford treatment for their children.
Today, O4A operates as a registered charity, providing children with debilitating conditions and diseases the surgical care and rehabilitation they need to function positively in society. “Witnessing their suffering prompted an ethical moment: we could either carry on and become desensitized or allow it in, to get a hold of us, and ground us in a deep sense of purpose,” said Pascoe. “Realizing that we had the power to alleviate the suffering of kids in Uganda not doing something would have been detrimental to our own well-being.”
One of these children was a four-year-old girl named Viola. Born with a left clubbed foot, Viola had a hard time walking. Thanks to O4A, a few months later, Viola received surgery on her foot, allowing her to walk without further difficulty. O4A performs a number of life-changing operations and treatment for preventable conditions, including osteomyelitis (bone infections), hernias, growths and tumors, cleft palates, fractures and trauma, burn contractures, and even amputations.
O4A changes the lives of the children they support, but they also shift the perceptions of the volunteers and people in the community. For Scout Hebinck, a photographer who worked with O4A on behalf of Photographers Without Borders, her trip to Uganda continues to resonate with her to this day. One of the reasons was because of the nurses that help run the organization.
“Toni and Olivia were my Ugandan counterparts who make O4A actually happen and run smoothly like no other nonprofit could possibly run," Hebinck said. "They both spend countless hours making sure children get to their appointments, to the surgery, and all the follow up after surgery as well as home visits and medication dispensing. Without their never-ending love, sleepless nights and altruistic care, these surgeries could never happen in the first place.”
In Uganda, surgeries are often paid out of pocket by people who live in severe poverty, with procedures costing between $200 and $1,000 for children. With the help from O4A, more surgical care is available for the children who desperately need it.
Through partnerships with clinics, hospitals, surgeons, and donations, O4A now helps around 10 to 15 children a month.
To learn more about One4Another and to donate, click here.