To celebrate the World Day of the Sick on Saturday, 11th February, Reach Out Mbuya hosted the Bishop of Kasana Luweero Diocese, Rtd. Rev. Paul Ssemogerere, who recognized Reach Out Mbuya’s work in HIV/AIDS and implored the government of Uganda to invest more in health care.
Ssemogerere spoke at the Reach Out Mbuya site in rural Kasaala, Luweero District to about 700 gomesi-clad grandmothers who are supported by Reach Out with free health care, food and nutritional support, economic support including animal husbandry and village savings and loans groups, goods such as farming tools and mattresses, and construction of durable houses and pit latrines. In these villages, many grandmothers are the primary caretaker of their grandchildren as their family members have died from AIDS.
On the World Day of the Sick, Bishop Ssemogerere recognized Reach Out’s efforts to provide health care to this demographic of unsung heroes in the AIDS scourge and asked the government of Uganda to invest more money in health instead of the so-called “presidential handshake,” what some refer to as bribery.
The World Day of the Sick is an annual Roman Catholic feast day created in 1992 by Pope John Paul II where believers are asked to offer their suffering to God and receive redemption. The Church chose the feast of Lourdes to mark the day because many pilgrims to that city in France had claimed to have been healed by the Blessed Virgin.
Reach Out Mbuya was chosen to host this year’s celebrations because the NGO was founded under the Catholic Church. At the event on Saturday, the Local Council 3 Secretary for Health and Education, Ssali Medy, the Diocese Health Coordinator, Sr. Namaganda Nayiga Rosemary, and ROM’s Executive Director, Dr. Betty Nsangi, also spoke.
ROM has also supported the grandmothers to form music, dance and drama groups as a form of psychosocial therapy. One group performed in front of the Bishop at the celebrations, singing a comedic song about the aches and pains of old age as they clutched their backs in mimicked pain.
“The disease of old age- it takes off your meat. You walk with your back like a boat; you walk on your knees with your mouth twisted. The disease of old age…” the grandmothers sang in Luganda to laughter from the crowd.
A group of MDD performers from St. Theresa Primary School also performed a series of traditional dances between the speeches.
The day finished with a feast of matooke, rice, meat and gnuts enjoyed by everyone. The Bishop also took a tour of Reach Out’s site in Kasaala, visiting with doctors, laboratory and medicine specialists, and patients in the general ward and maternity ward. Reach Out staff showed him how the organization has switched to monitoring patients’ viral loads instead of solely CD4 counts, in line with the new country-wide guidelines regarding HIV/AIDS.