Transforming Lives Through the Road to Hope Program
A Collaborative Tale of Impact and Empowerment
The Road to Hope (RTH) program is a joint initiative between the Center for Hospice Care/Hospice Foundation (CHC/HF) and the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU). Established in 2012, the program recognizes that effective palliative care extends beyond caring solely for a patient’s physical needs. The program is dedicated to support the children of patients, giving them the invaluable gift of peace of mind – knowing that their child will receive an education and means to support themselves after they are gone. The RTH program’s mission is to help orphaned or deprived child caregivers in Uganda receive the education they need to become productive young adults. In addition to educational support, the program addresses their medical needs, supports their emotional well-being and acts as a conduit for PCAU’s advocacy and community-level engagement. This strategy aligns with the World Health Organization’s conceptual model for palliative care delivery, transforming PCAU into a community-centric force for holistic well-being.
At the heart of the RTH program lies the holistic approach to palliative care which focuses on the total wellbeing of the individual, their family and community. The program engages generous individuals to join this community and sponsor individual children. Through structured engagement with CHC/HF, RTH sponsors not only offer financial assistance but also establish personal connections with the children, fostering a sense of belonging. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of CHC/HF and PCAU and strengthened by the staff exchange visits, the partnership continues to grow, deepening relationships and offering opportunities to holistically support children on the RTH program.
In September 2023, the CHC/HF staff exchange visit coincided with the 4th Uganda Conference on Cancer and Palliative Care. Karl Holderman, vice president and chief financial officer, Lacey Ahern, Global Partners in Care program director, and Denis Kidde, international programs coordinator participated in the conference. They also had several engagements with PCAU colleagues and some of the children on the RTH program. At the conference, a few recent RTH graduates supported conference logistics, and some exhibited their technical skills. Gertrude, who has just finished her vocational certificate in fashion and design, exhibited her exceptional work. Gertrude’s story demonstrates the impact of the RTH program. She has been supported by a sponsor and PCAU through her education, mentorship in her trade and is now being supported to settle back in her hometown in Kiboga District to practice her new trade. PCAU is providing her with start-up money, offering her the opportunity to be self-employed. Gertrude has gained a lot of experience from the structured mentorship initiatives organized by PCAU. Gertrude noted she “earns on a weekly basis, save some portion to support open up my own shop in the future and also use some of it to support my siblings in school…”
Dr. Kasula Stephen, the first child to graduate from the program as clinical officer in 2015, was also at the conference. He recently graduated from King Caesar University with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) and was recognized with an award “for his great example of resilience and motivation to the children on the RTH program.” Dr. Kasula has continued to be a role model for many children, volunteers regularly with the program and provides medical support during the children’s camp. Currently on deployment as a Medical Intern which is required by Uganda’s Ministry of Health, he will soon obtain a permanent practicing license after completing the one-year internship.
Tonny Agondeze, a recent RTH graduate in development studies from Makerere University, remains dedicated to the program and is currently volunteering at PCAU. He was central in extending support at the conference. As he looks for employment in his field of study, Tonny is learning much from volunteering in the PCAU office. The RTH program expresses gratitude to the sponsors of Gertrude, Stephen and Tonny for their belief in these young people. Their successes embody the RTH program’s commitment to empowering child caregivers for a brighter future.
Following the conference, Karl, Lacey, and Denis, along with PCAU staff, embarked on special visits to RTH children, fostering moments of joy and connection. The visits not only brought cheers to the children but also played a crucial role in providing psychosocial support. Allan currently in primary 6, was particularly thrilled to welcome Karl (his sponsor) to his school. This marked their first meeting since Allan joined the program in 2016, strengthening the deep bond between them that has grown through letters. In the same school, three other RTH children – Mary, Jemima, and Matildah – expressed excitement and gratitude during the visit from CHC/HF and PCAU staff.
The CHC/HF and PCAU staff continued their journey with a visit to a high school where the RTH program has several children. They met with Jackline and her sister, Sanyu and Peter and his brother Paul. PCAU tries to balance placing the children in a school and setting that is the best fit for them individually but also where they have community with other RTH children. The children at this school really appreciate their school for its holistic approach and care, citing teachers who provide counseling, nurture spiritual growth, actively involve parents/guardians in the education journey and instill a strong motivation for academic excellence. This is exactly the type of support PCAU hopes for all of the RTH children in their schools.
The RTH program profoundly impacts the lives of the children it serves, offering the care and resources essential for a dignified and fulfilling life. This collaborative partnership between CHC/HF and PCAU employs a holistic approach to supporting the whole child, and the program exemplifies the transformative power of collaboration, delivering comprehensive palliative care and support to vulnerable children in Uganda. There are many opportunities to engage in supporting the RTH program. Opportunities for child sponsorship are available for those interested in supporting these children to become individuals of great significance to themselves, their families and the wider community. Contact Denis Kidde for more information!