Welcome To Tunaweza Children's Centre
A haven for children with special needs where Professionalism, Excellence, Non discrimination,
Patience, Intergrity and Team work, is Valued.
Every morning at 8:15 the staff and children start the day off with Morning Glory.
Singing and praying together teaches core values: respect for each other’s differences and the meaning of community spirit.
Tunaweza would like to extend a warm welcome to our new volunteer, Miss Monique Mcgrath.
Monique comes highly recommended and has experience with working with children. She is a great addition to our team.
We are very excited to have her as part of our Tunaweza family!
We Strive To Empower Children With Special Needs To Reach Their Full Potential
The skills that children gain at various stages are called developmental milestones. Milestones occur at various times and within the following areas: social, emotional, language, movement and intellectual. The age at which a child sits up, walks, and talks are all examples of developmental milestones. A child may have a developmental delay if certain skills are not reached within the same time range as other children of the same age.
Tunaweza Children’s Centre offers child developmental assessments by a team of professional therapists. Our team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, special needs educators, and child psychologists are eager to assess your child and work together to create the best therapy plan for your child.
Tunaweza is a Swahili word that can loosely be translated as “We can” and the members took it a little bit too far by proving that they can give selflessly.
The golfers turned up in droves 38 teams and paid Shs20.3m as green fees to compete in the Tunaweza Charity Golf Tournament at the par-72 Kitante course on Friday.
And after Tunaweza Children’s Centre board chairman Dr Sam Zaramba, a former captain at UGC, made a plea during the awards ceremony that the intended target was Shs40m, the golfers ungrudging dug deeper into their pockets and forked out an extra Shs12m and $3500(an estimated Shs8.8m) for a grand total of Shs40.8m.
Led by witty auctioneer Amos Nzeyi, who paid in an excess os Shs2m, golfers from different walks of life particularly MSL Logistics’ Edward kabuchu (at least Shs2.5m), Dr Kotecha family and Ruparelia Group (each $1000)’s generosity left the Tunaweza Board of Directors humbled.
“It is hard for sponsors to part with their cash easily like this these days but we are grateful with the love we have been shown,” said board member Podi Kasami.
The day also offered an insight into the future of Ugandan golf after Team Kolin Construction comprising of national team hopefuls carded 109 stableford points to defeat MSL Logistics (101) by eight points.
Morris Ashaba (h/c 11) with 38 points, 18-handicapper Micheal Tumusiime (36), Becca Mwanja, playing off four with (35) and non-playing captain Abbey Bagalana were the architects behind the win attained by Bruhan Nassur-sponsored team.
Story by Innocent Ndawula. Sunday Monitor 5/25/14
My deepest desire is to give every child a chance to reach their potential irrespective of their condition.Titi says of her decision to put her career on hold to start TUNAWEZA Children’s Centre. Titi is this unbelievably stunning woman with an enchanting smile and obviously a brilliant mind. She speaks with the eloquence of an advocate and the passion of a revolutionary. The bubbly wife and mother of two never thought she would end up founding a childrenÆs home but it was one of those happy accidents.
I come from a fairly large family by today’s standards (six children) and was brought up by the most attentive and caring parents. We were showered with a lot of love which some people would consider spoiling children but now I know that my parents knew what they were doing. Because I know how it feels to be really treasured I want every child especially those with special needs to feel loved, treasured unconditionally. I believe that the only disability in life is a bad attitude and the greatest gift you can give someone is friendship and understanding. I always feel like the richest, most favored, and blessed person in the world because of the great friendships I have made. I believe if I lived in a caravan, I would have a great party at every stop every night, everywhere in the world.
Before deciding to try at making children’s lives better, Titi who holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (Bar Course) from the Law Development Centre in Kampala-Uganda, and a Bachelor of Laws Degree from Makerere University in Kampala-Uganda was a successful consultant.
She has worked as lead and associate consultant on a number of Projects with great interest in communication/Advocacy assignments, Administration, Public relations & Marketing with Clients such Ministry of Health,- UVRI-IAVI & MRC , Ministry of Education & Sports- USAID Project on Girl Child Education Programmes, UNICEF, World Health Organization, Nile Basin Initiative, and The International Monetary Fund to mention but a few.
She was concerned by the realization that there were no facilities in the country providing basic training and care required by children with special needs. Driven by the need to raise social awareness about the potential which children with special needs have, once provided the required attention, she decided together with her friend Sheila Sabune to open up the first Early Childhood Intervention Centre of its kind in Kampala which is still the only one stop center in the region of East Africa.
Titi stands before the center’s bulletin board
Tunaweza Children’s Center is a registered non-profit organization that provides children with special needs access to therapy, specialized education and day programs to support the specific needs of the children and their families. The Center follows a holistic approach to serving children with special needs. It believes in serving its beneficiary children and their families with professionalism, excellence, non-discrimination, integrity, and teamwork.
Our Vision is: Strive to empower children with special needs in the region to reach their full potential.
The Center’s Mission Statement is:To optimize the abilities of children with special needs by;
Providing an excellent Curriculum of Occupational, Physical and Speech therapy;
Sufficient Resources and Support needed to boost their development towards reaching their fullest potential.
And Providing Information, Training and Specialized help to their families and communities.
Our early intervention program aims at providing education, counseling and other support services to the children as well as parents of the affected children. Among the services provided include; Child assessment prior to therapy, physical, occupational, speech and language therapy, music and art therapy and special needs education, all given respectively according to the assessment results. The Center also advocates for these children through affiliate networks as well as providing family services that ensure continual progress even in their homes.
In providing her services, Tunaweza Children’s Center desires to improve, develop and expand its educational section in order to empower the clients who have left therapy levels (in order to prevent them from regressing), reach out to more children, as well as accommodate those children who would wish to benefit from our special needs class but prefer not to be mixed with the more incapacitated ones. The center also wishes to formulate a specific curriculum (based on each child’s needs) for the school since the Ministry of Education and Sports doesn’t have one. By doing so, we will be able to empower these children to reach their full potential. This will also help reduce stigma amongst parents and society as a whole. This is because even if these children are doing well, they still won’t be accepted in normal schools. However, due to limited resources, only a substantial number of children can be supported. The Center is thus doing its best to acquire more resources as it works towards a transformed society that can care, create opportunities and encourage independence in the lives of children living with special needs.
Located in Kiwatule Kampala, the Center has a Board of Directors made up of four (6) and 2 dedicated professionals who also serve as development partners. The Board helps in giving direction to management and ensures that Center activities are implemented as planned. The Center has full time Ugandan staff as well as a rotating staff of American volunteers that help to promote an environment of continual growth, cultural sensitivity, improvement and capacity building.
It is licensed by the Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Health through Kampala Capital City Authority and Allied Medical& Dental Practitioners. Currently, apart from the licensing, the Center doesn’t have any specific partnerships with the above institutions. However, it directly works with various medical service providers including Mulago National Referral Hospital’s Psychiatric Ward to obtain referrals for rehabilitation and capacity development among others. Other stakeholders include schools and parents for whom we deliver services through our home-based program and fellowships.
The Center operates and provides services to mainly clients within Kampala district. However, we do receive a number of clients from outside Kampala as well as other regions who periodically come to the center for rehabilitation and assessments. We also recently welcomed a few clients from Somalia and Rwanda, which further boosts our zeal and vision of empowering children with special needs in the region to reach their full potential.
The center also has the therapy department headed by the Head of therapy and has got a total of 12 therapists 3 occupational therapists, 3 physiotherapists , 2 speech therapists and 3 special needs teachers. We also have a psychosocial support team of 2 and in total the center employs 24 persons.
Titi shows us the center’s colourful playground
Social & Economic Impact
Children with special needs have been a widely neglected and underserved population in Uganda. The majority of children with special needs are not even given the opportunity to receive the services and intervention that they so desperately need. This opportunity is not only restricted due to monetary limitations, but the main reason is that services for such children are so scarce and essentially nonexistent throughout the country and the region.
Research indicates that to a large extent, parents/caretakers of children with special needs in Uganda and Africa at large consider it a burden to take care of such children. Many parents are stigmatized and would prefer that their families or friends or even the neighborhood in which they stay not to know that they have such children. They consider it a curse and if the children are lucky enough to be brought to special clinics and or schools like Tunaweza Children’s Center, some of their parents do not want to be identified as real parents, but mere caretakers or guardians. Some parents/caretakers think that such children will never grow up to become children of responsibility, hence end up abandoning them in institutions that take care of them. Some think it is wastage of money, which they could use to bring up other normal children. The girls are even more disadvantaged than the boys; very rarely will parents bring them to special needs clinics or schools unless it’s the only child they have. That is why the majority of the enrolled children are boys, whom some parents believe are currently the only heirs they may have in old age. It is also important to note that clinics and schools for children with special needs are very scarce or even nonexistent in the country and the region at large.
In her effort to support the children with special needs, Tunaweza Children’s Center put together resources, both human and equipment, to establish a one-stop center proving all therapy treatments as well as specialized education (with the realization that these children could not match the pace and style of teaching they were exposed to in the ordinary schools and daycares they went to) to enable families in the nearby communities access affordable services for the proper development of their children.
The community and beneficiaries including other stakeholders like the government have been involved right from the planning stage, pre-implementation assessment as well as monitoring and evaluation of project activities so far. Their involvement is intended to ensure ownership and inclusion of the above identified areas of intervention into their long term plans and budgets to ensure continuity in the provision and delivery of friendly services to children with special needs. Community involvement involves giving advice and agreeing on measures to run the project set up for their children, day-to-day implementation, monitoring and evaluation of their children’s developmental needs.
The beneficiary parents/caretakers are undergoing capacity building and counseling sessions from which skills and knowledge are being imparted to be in position to provide practical activities to their children and how to monitor and evaluate their developmental progress. They are also in position to support each other whenever faced with such circumstances of special development needs. This will help strengthen community ability to be self-reliant in supporting children with special needs and other areas of life. The training should also help them better evaluate the services offered by the center. Alongside therapy and education provided, the Center also conducts frequent research into the causes of child developmental disorders, and this information will keep the community and beneficiaries informed on the pre and post-procedures needed to prevent and improve conditions of children with special needs.
The Center has also been encouraging beneficiary parents/caretakers to form community mechanisms that can be empowered to lobby and set up saving schemes as well as income generating activities to support the financial and nutritional needs of their children with special needs.
The center’s playground
As the day winds to a close, we cannot help but look back and say “amazing progress!” Today our day was filled with so many accomplishments. We have been well received by the Ugandans and truly see their deep desire to insert CLASP’s programming in the country. Our Ugandan guide Titi Pamela Kakonge, founder to Tunaweza Children’s Center in Kampala, established appointments for us to meet with government, hospital and university officials, ensuring that we take the correct steps in launching our programs. A Lawyer by trade, Titi contacted Clasp International because of a personal situation she faced with her own daughter who has a learning disability secondary to a brain injury at birth. Her child was born still-born and was resuscitated back to life. A child now known to suffer through severe seizures and a learning disability, Gabby as well as Titi were considered very different than most families in her culture as they beat the odds and were well supported by family and friends rather than considered to be an outcast as some tend to do. Titi knows firsthand the hardships of employing the needed professionals to render the services her child required to live a more independent life. After numerous trips to the United States to gain access to the services necessary for her daughter, Titi decided to build her own center for children with disabilities in Kampala, Uganda. Open less than a year, Tunaweza Children’s Center serves the Kampala community by providing children with special needs occupational therapy, physical therapy, special education support, and one day hopes to have speech-language therapy offered. Most of the professionals employed at the center are diploma prepared or volunteers who stay for 3-6 months. When Titi heard about CLASP’s mission, she jumped at the chance to have the program introduced to the professionals of Uganda. With a capacity of only 26 children, Titi hopes with the aide of CLASP International’s self-sustaining programing, she will be able to employ more competent professionals, in turn helping more children in the community.
Our day began meeting with the Commissioner of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, where we were able to gain information about bringing sustainable programing to the Milago Medical School through Makerere University. We were guided to meet with The Minister of Health, who is also head of the ear, nose and throat (ENT) department at Makerere University. This meeting consisted of meeting with the university officials to discuss the curriculums offered in Speech-Language Pathologist, Audiologist and NICU Nursing. The curriculum was received with a sense of excitement and honor as the university officials see the need clearly and see that CLASP has established programming in Lusaka and Nairobi. CLASP’s name and accomplishments now carry itself with the officials truly desiring the programs to be established in their country as well. We were then guided to meet with the Minister of Education to begin the steps of pairing up the Ministry of Heath and Ministry of Education to jointly accept a registry for the professions under both Ministries. This gained outstanding approval and CLASP is ready to get started on the necessary steps to make this happen. To have the Ministries accepting the programs, establishing the registries, and sketching out job placements for these future speech-language pathologists is amazing to see.
After Lunch, Titi gave us a tour of her children’s center where we witnessed the amazing work her staff does with children with disabilities. It is truly overwhelming to see what she has accomplished with so little materials and such a short amount of time. Next door to the children’s home, we then visited the deaf school of Uganda, where we met the head of the school who provided us with a tour of the facility and gave us a snap shot of the inner workings of the School. This will be anamazing placement for a practical setting for the speech-language pathology program and the audiology program as 218 hearing impaired children call this facility their permanent home.
We rounded out the day with an appointment with the founders of Family Care Hospital in Nigra, Uganda. Family Care Hospital is a fairly new hospital where holistic and preventative care medical needs are met by a physicians and nurses. Only in its infancy stage, Family Care Hospital will begin by doing community outreach and in the future will develop into a 24 hour urgent care facility. The team at Family Care Hospital wants Clasp’s input and assistance with organizing community outreach programs, which will serves as both preventative care and diagnostic medicine.
We are extremely excited to embark on this endeavor with the country of Uganda. Through hard work and diligence we will have these programs up and running, allowing renewed hope for those families who could not find help in the past.
A mother with a special needs daughter who could have continued taking her child abroad for therapy, like she had been doing all along, instead decided provide the same high quality care for other other parents.
At Tunaweza Children’s Centre, you will be met with jolly children running around noisely, like you would expect in any other children’s centre. Except, it is special in the case of these children at Tunaweza because they are special needs children, born with defects that affect their normal development.
However, one mother’s experience with a special needs child who had to be taken abroad to get the necessary special care bore in her a desire to bring this service closer to home and help other parents in similar situations. That mother, Pamela Kakonge, the Chief Executive Officer of Tunaweza Children’s Centre, founded the centre where these children have also gotten a chance to at least learn how to do things like other children their age.
The experience that bore the centre
Kakonge, a mother of two, narrates, “My daughter, Gabriel, was “dead” at birth. She showed no sign of life at birth. She was lifeless but the doctor checked her and discovered a very faint pulse, a sign that she could be revived.The doctors pumped oxygen into her lungs to resuscitate her, and in the process, some of veins in her brain were damaged, thus causing the brain damage that’s affected her to date.”
Gabby, as the mother fondly refers to her, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for a month. When she finally came out, the doctor told the parents that she would never walk or talk. “I am the kind of person who asks so many questions but when I was told the news, I did not have anything to say. All I did was cry because I could not imagine my daughter not having a normal life like any other child,” recounts the mother. However, she had to pick herself up and find help for her child. When they left hospital, she says she was set on finding treatment for her daughter because she had been told that with therapy, Gabriel would be able to pick up slowly.
“I went to some hospitals in Nairobi and later to South Africa. But the hospitals and accommodation in these two countries were very expensive. I decided to go to the United States because I knew I could get free accommodation from relatives living there,” she says. In the US, my daughter started improving because of the constant therapy she was getting,” she recalls.
The prices to pay
To have enough time and liberty to take care of her daughter, Kakonge had to resign from her job. “There was no way my bosses were going to let me be away from work for two to three months three times a year. So, I kept on getting part time jobs whenever I came back to Kampala. I needed to prove to my family that I was also trying to raise money. Gabby’s treatment and the constant trips were very expensive. But I had the support of my husband and both our families.”
She explains that while she still had to face the challenge of knowing that her child would never be normal, the realisation that therapy would make a difference shifted the challenge to money. “Although I was getting all the help I needed from my family, I was worried because with all the money they were giving me, there were no tangible results for a while.”
“Whenever she got seizures, we had to go back to zero. She forgot how to talk, walk and all the other things she had learnt at every seizure. But in all this, I was very patient.”
The angel on the train
Early this year while on a train from New York to Boston for Gabby’s treatment, she sat next to a lady who was inquisitive about her daughter’s condition. “When I narrated my ordeal to her, she told me that I did not have to come to the states for treatment all the time.”
The lady organised a gathering at which Kakonge was one of the speakers. Her story touched some people. They offered to help her start a one-stop therapeutical centre for children like hers.
“I found their idea brilliant. I knew that with a centre in Kampala, I would not have to keep on travelling so far, and other parents with children like mine would benefit from it. When I came back in June this year, I started looking for a place where to establish the centre,” she says.
Tunaweza is born
“With the help of family and friends, I got a house and was also able to buy tickets for therapists and counsellors who would work at the centre.”
With everything in place, she organised a breakfast for parents who started enrolling their children in the centre. At the moment, the school has between five to 12 children.
To the parents: that child can get better
Kakonge explains that the numbers keep on fluctuating because parents do not give children with development disabilities priority. “I noticed this at the beginning of this term. When the school opened, we only had three children. The others were nowhere to be seen. The parents said they did not have money but they had taken the normal children to school.” Besides not giving such children priority, some parents are in denial without any hope that their children could grow into normal child.
“However, children with such defects, if put on therapy as soon as the problem is detected, can live a normal life. This is evident with my daughter; where she was unable to do anything before, she can now talk and walk though with a slight limp. She even goes to a normal school from 8am to 7pm then comes to the centre for therapy. I’m only tasked to ensure that she does not get seizures.”
Tunaweza Children’s Centre: Kampala, Uganda
“We can” is the English translation of “Tunaweza.” The name of The Center reflects the positive energy of its founder, Titi Pamela, the mother of a child with special needs, who came to understand the value of early intervention while living in the Boston area. Upon the family’s return to Kampala, Uganda, Titi, a lawyer by training, soon learned about the lack of therapeutic support for young children with special needs. So in 2010, with support from a co-founder, Sue Karant (a consultant in Boston), Titi launched the Tunaweza Children’s Centre in Kampala. Donor support as well as local funding support The Center.
Titi Pamela co-founded Tunaweza Children’s Centre in Kampala Uganda. After living in Boston and seeing the value of early intervention, she decided to launch her own center to provide services for children with special needs in Uganda.
Most of the children who are seen for therapy have been evaluated by a diagnostic team at the University of Uganda Developmental Clinic or referred by a pediatrician. Services include speech, occupational, and physical therapy. The Center services a range of children from ages 2 to 22. Reportedly, almost 60% of children enrolled at the Center are diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. The greatest challenge in working with children with special needs in Kampala is early identification and referral. Children are often not diagnosed as delayed until they reach school at age 4. As SLPs we understand the critical role of early intervention with children with development delays. Titi has developed an excellent working relationship with Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences Co-op Program and this summer two undergrad students are slated to work at the Tunaweza Center. Stay tuned for updates!
The greatest need at the Tunaweza Center is speech therapy. Titi is highly motivated to secure speech therapists for her center. For any travel lusting speechies out there please contact Titi Pamela for more information at The Center’s website: http://www.tunaweza.co.ug/home/