Christine Akullo has a sight-debilitating condition, but she still has her sights set on gold.
The 22-year-old Ugandan is a former sponsored child through ChildFund, who has a sight-debilitating condition, known as keratoconus. Although the condition left her partially blind, she's focused on her legs and feet. Those long, never-ending legs won her a gold medal at the All-Africa Games in 2011 and have secured her spot in the 2012 London Paralympics. ChildFund Uganda is sponsoring her so she can afford the costs associated with competing.
Having a disability is not easy, and it's compounded when one lives in a developing country. People with disabilities are often excluded from educational opportunities and social interaction and are more vulnerable to disease. But one of the many great things about ChildFund is its mission of helping all children.
Children with disabilities enrolled in ChildFund's programs are included in mainstream early childhood development, education, recreation, health, nutrition and vocational programs. Children with disabilities have a higher risk of HIV infection, so ChildFund developed a program that targets Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Inclusion of people with disabilities is one of our focus areas in Ethiopia and Kenya.
We have a targeted program toward inclusion of people with disabilities in Belarus that is quite comprehensive. Funded by USAID and Displaced Children and Orphans Fund, the program focuses on capacity building for organizations of persons with disabilities, leadership and advocacy training for persons with disabilities, small grants for innovative services, inclusive education, parent education, parent and family support, development of and advocacy for government support and regulations and early intervention for infants and young children.
Our programs are designed to give children hope and change communities with something as simple as opportunity. Come August, Christine will be the one providing hope to children living with disabilities all over the world when she competes in the 100- and 400-meter races.
She shared with me that she wants society to be accepting of people with disabilities, her desire for all children with disabilities to attend school, but most importantly, that those same children change their own attitude and begin to believe that they can do just about anything.
It is inspiring to know that at such a young age, she understands that believing is one of the easiest things we can do for ourselves. It requires nothing more than knowing that who we are is good enough and with determination, we can fulfill the dreams that keep us up at night, like competing in the Paralympics.
Christine hopes to make friends when she travels to London, but she has more friends she could ever dream of with the number of ChildFund employees and partners around the world who will be cheering her on as she makes her country proud. I hope Christine and all of those participating encourage the world to change the way we view our limitations and how we see people with disabilities, particularly children.
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