Ivan Rukundo and his wife Juliet Niwigaba are both teachers who were working in the private school system after finishing their educations. In their Ugandan village of Rukuba Masha Isingiro in the district of Mbarrara; they had both struggled very hard just to become educated, and have their basic needs met.
They both wanted to create something that would help the many orphaned children and impoverished residents in their area rise up to become a community working together to sustain and improve the lives of all. Ivan and Juliet acquired an education and survived against all the odds and wanted to assist the children and families facing these and worse odds.
Ivan had lived in several places over the years where he saw a common problem everywhere he went: Many youths suffering illiteracy and unemployment, falling into a life of crime just to survive. Most of these youths had become orphaned when their parents died from HIV, typhoid fever, drug overdose, alcoholism, murder, starvation and untreated disease. Malaria, when untreated, kills both the pregnant mothers and their unborn children.
There is a cycle of young women becoming pregnant without education or resources to sustain themselves, let alone the new lives being created. The rearing of children often falls on grandparents (if available) who lack education and vocation skills or money themselves.
These are the challenges most under-served impoverished neighborhoods face, but especially those which lack enough hospitals or schools to serve their residents. As of June 2020, there is only one school serving 15 village communities including Isingiro, the village in question. The closest medical facility is Mbarara Hospital, over 40km away. Google advises it is a 45 minute drive by car for residents (who don’t own cars) to get there from this Western Ugandan village.
With so little motivation or examples of success for youths to follow or draw upon, Ivan knew he had to come up with an idea and a plan quickly for their survival. How could he give these village residents and orphans hope for their future and some way to earn a living without turning to lives of crime?
He and Juliet were already using what little they had from Ivan’s salary to feed, clothe, shelter and educate (buying books, paper and pencils) the 15+ orphaned children in their care in 2016.
They were getting organized and finding ways to tell their stories and getting some contributions for their cause.
In late 2016 Ivan came up with the concept of building and providing wooden wheelbarrows for underserved residents of Isingiro to serve several purposes. The children could place handmade items and the food they had grown into them and bring these to market to sell and become self sustaining. In 2016, teaching sandal-making and farming for food and sales were only future goal ideas.
The young mothers could carry water, foodstuffs, hand-crafted items to sell and even their children in these wheelbarrows. They were indeed Wheels Of Hope .
Ivan used whatever little money they had from teaching to get some wood and tools to build these simple wooden wheelbarrows, and the older children came forward to learn, create and assist him. He officially set up WOH charitable and educational organization in early 2017.
Ivan, Juliet and the WOH charity they created have become a growing and important pillar for their community. Their wheelbarrows are in constant use for bringing food to market, farming and agriculture (also being taught) and are being built as materials and funds become available.
The people are learning new ways and developing a sense of pride and accomplishment, as they learn to become self sustained. Ivan even studied and learned about Bachwezi wooden sandals created by his ancestors, and decided it would be a good way to teach the children a craft which they could use to help them in life.
They have done very well with what little they have, creating some sandals and bringing them to market. It is a future goal to be able to purchase enough materials and tools to create and sell the shoes from the Wheels Of Hope children as a successful enterprise.
Buildings for a school, emergency shelter and a medical clinic are part of their long-range organization plan. Wi-fi connections with computers in their learning centers are also on the list of projects for WOH. Books, paper and pencils all cost money and are what they use now. Not everyone has access to internet learning models during this disabling pandemic.
Creating the model for success by getting access to potable clean water (reducing and eliminating disease) is their immediate pressing project which the RadioCave Foundation is assisting with now.
As our foundation support network grows, the communities we help can grow and improve also. There are 55+ children now in the Wheels Of Hope orphanage being helped and thousands in the surrounding village areas.