- Heart of gold. Her love for children started at university when she used to visit Sanyu Babies Home. The plight of children with hearing impairment inspired Katia Mugenzi to dedicate her whole life to giving hope to children in Kamuli District, writes Charlotte Ninsiima.
Orphaned at the age of four, during the Rwanda genocide, Mugenzi’s turning point to start charity work started during a trip to Kamuli in Easter holiday of 2016.
“We had visited Kamuli and a boy approached me using sign language. His message was that he did not receive any of the items we were giving out during Easter.
We had no more items left. I asked him if he could fit in the sneakers that I was wearing. They fit him perfectly well and I gave the pair to him”, .
It is at this point that Mugenzi felt she could do more to reach out to such children. She traced the boy’s whereabouts from the Local Council One Chairman in the area who informed her that he was out of school and did not have a caregiver.
Mugenzi offered to pay his school fees but there was no school for children with hearing impairments in the area.
She confesses that she imagined there were several other children with the same challenge who had no one to support them.
“I decided to quit my job in 2016 to start Taasa Foundation to support both the orphaned and deaf through school.
I sold my car and everything I had in a bid to sustain this cause, she says. However, she says her idea was not welcomed as she initially anticipated.She learnt that perseverance was a virtue she badly needed to adopt.
During that time she experienced a mini depression, and wondered why her plans were not working out.
Through reaching out to the deaf, Mugyenzi thought she would fulfill her purpose on earth.
Months later, she met a professional sign language teacher who needed support to start a school for the deaf. “We met and agreed on the way forward. We opened our school in Nabwiguru Sub -county in Kamuli District,” she notes.
The school started with five children studying under a tree. Before the year ended, Mugenzi says more than 20 children had enrolled in 2017.
The numbers today have grown to 45 and the school accommodates children from Primary One to Six in four classrooms and two dormitories.
She currently uses part of her salary to support activities of the deaf children.
Famous for participating in several community fundraising campaigns, she spearheaded the outreach programme in Kamuli.
“After graduation in 2014, I made a documentary called ‘Silent World’ on Urban television about children at Ntinda deaf school”, she says.
“It is disheartening that most of the children are abandoned at the school without help. Some parents just bring them and leave them at the gate and they never come back to check on their children”.
Mugenzi says with the help of police, they trace the parents of the deaf children. “We do not want them to abandon their responsibilities completely. We want them to recognise that these children still need parental support and love,” she says.
She says some parents completely deny ever being parents of these children and her foundation ends up adopting them. The school currently has five sign language teachers. The initiative provides both school fees, scholastic materials, shelter, sanitary towels and food.
“My background is the driving force. I am an orphan and my parents died in the Rwanda genocide. I have been helped by people to go to school and to be the person I am today. This is my way of paying back.” She is passionate about children, envisions a community where all children are supported to reach greatness.
Mugenzi says some children as old as 16 years do not know how to communicate effectively using sign language. She also highlights a mismatch between the increasing number of children that need support and inadequate funds and facilities like classrooms. The biggest challenge is that as girls become adolescents, rape cases and men manipulating them become rampant. “They need more protection. They tend to keep their challenges to themselves because even at police stations, no one is likely to understand them,” Mugenzi explains.
She supports the children through social fundraising from friends. She also plans to organise a sensitisation drive to educate people on how to support deaf children and fight stigma. Mugenzi was awarded in recognition for her contribution towards changing lives in the community by the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association and Uptown group on Women’s Day.
Who is Katia Mugyezi
After losing her parents to the genocide in Rwanda at the age of four, Violet Serucaca took her on as her own child and and raised her. She went to Kabale Primary School, Kigezi High School and Greenville High School. She pursed a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communication at Makerere University. Besides running several businesses, she worked with Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) and as a journalist.
Mugenzi says most of the children are abandoned at the school without help. Once the parents take them to the school, they never come back to check on their children.
The biggest challenge is that as girls become adolescents, rape cases and men manipulating them become rampant. “They need more protection.
They tend to keep their challenges to themselves because even at police stations, no one is likely to understand them,” Mugenzi explains.
Some parents completely deny ever being parents of these children and her foundation ends up adopting them. The school currently has five sign language teachers.
The initiative provides both school fees, scholastic materials, shelter, sanitary towels and food.