Mary’s Determination

When Mary’s daughter was 3 years old she thought was going to die. She developed an extremely high fever accompanied with convulsions and was admitted to the children’s hospital where the doctors advised Mary to begin making funeral arrangements.
Mary with SEN Class pupil, Sakira

However, days crept into weeks, and Mary’s daughter did not pass away. And though she remained weak and unresponsive hope returned. After sometime Mary was advised that she was out danger but that she would be left with permanent physical and learning disabilities.

Mary told me “everyone looked at me sadly as if my child was ruined, but inside my heart was happy because she was not dead. I was just happy that she was alive and I didn’t care if I would have to struggle with her being disabled”.
Eventually Mary took her daughter home. The once precocious and verbal 3 year old now lay weak on a mat unable to speak, unable to stand and still suffering spasms down one side of her body. Some friends and neighbours advised Mary not to waste her time with the child and to focus on her other ‘healthy’ children. But instead Mary spent hours playing with her daughter coaxing her to feed herself, to stand and to interact.
Mary encourages Winnie to walk during an outreach session.

One day, many months later, as Mary was administering some medicine to her child, she told her to open her mouth up wide. And for the first time since her sickness she followed an instruction. Bewildered and overjoyed Mary called to her other children to witness. They all laughed at their mother telling her she was imaging it until lo and behold she did it again for them. “Lift up your arms!” they told her and she did.

Daily, thereafter, Mary and her other 4 children took turns doing home-made physio exercises and devising new ways of engaging their sister to talk and play. And slowly, slowly, over time the child began to regain her skills.
Today, that child is our formidable head teacher, Immaculate. Mary describes Immaculate as the brightest and most capable of all her children. She graduated at the top of her class in Early Childhood Education from Nile Vocational Institution where she was asked to stay on for an extra year to extend her studies and mentor the weaker students. At school and in the community she is a force to be reckoned with and is the model of a strong, confident, modern African woman who still maintains her family traditionalism. Apart from an almost imperceptible limp, there is no trace that remains that Immaculate was ever “physically and mentally handicapped”.
Immaculate playing party games with Baby Class
Immaculate has no problems leading the whole school!


Mary is chairperson of Buwenda Women in Action, the locally run Community Based Organisation (CBO) through which SSF run the nursery and most importantly the SEN project. She is our community liaison and outreach coordinator and she provides counselling and mentoring for the parents and guardians of the children with disability with whom we work.
Mary spent hours counselling Norman’s mother to cope with his special needs.

When we first came to work with Mary, we did not know this story. But we were impressed from the first by her commitment, modern attitude and never-ending faith in the children and families we work with. Mary has come to be the cornerstone of our community work and is an example to mothers the world over who face the sometimes overwhelming weight of supporting a child with additional needs.