“I learnt that I should not hide her inside but I should encourage people around her to love her.”

John used to work as a truck driver, travelling all over Uganda for work. But when his daughter Mariam was born, his life changed forever.

“My daughter did not cry when she was born,” John told us. “She did not seem to be able to hear anything...”

Mariam spent the first four months of her life in hospital with malaria. The doctors didn’t explain Mariam’s condition to her parents, and simply discharged her with a ‘spine problem’. So the family returned home where it became a real challenge to look after their new baby girl. Then, when Mariam was eight months old, her mother abandoned her in the family home while John was at work.

I tried to get hold of my wife but she would not answer… I still don’t know why she left.

In Uganda, stigma and discrimination towards people with disabilities remains rife. It is not uncommon for communities, friends and even family members to turn their backs on disabled people, leaving them isolated and cut off from the world. Life grew even tougher for John as a single parent. He had no family to support him and had to give up driving for work to stay at home with Mariam.

At one point, I decided that I could not look after Mariam alone…

John thought about taking his daughter to her grandparents and leaving her there – and even started the journey. But a stranger on the bus encouraged him to have courage and continue caring for her, so he returned home. He found employment as a barber in a local salon, and started taking Mariam to work with him. His customers were all very kind to her but John remained worried that he could not look after her anymore.

I used to look at her and think that there is no hope for her in the future.

But everything changed when Mariam turned two years old and John met staff from Motivation. He was invited to join a parent support group, and took part in parent carer training. Bonding with other parents gave him hope. He learnt not to fear Mariam and decided he wanted to keep his daughter with him – for good.

John told us:

"This was the first time I learnt about cerebral palsy. They trained me on how to look after Mariam, and gave me a lot of courage to stay with my child. I learnt that I should not hide her inside but I should encourage people around her to love her.

“Now I know the signs that mean she is hungry. I know what she needs and when to feed her. I can make her happy. Feeding is much easier too because I know how to do it. I bring fruit for her.

“She is happier now. I can see that she recognises me and knows I am her father, and I like playing with her.

“I have learnt to dress her properly like any other child, and to show her she is loved so that she gets more respect from those around her. I know how to interpret her signals, so I can tell what she likes and doesn’t like.

“These days, I feel well. I am happy looking after her and I don’t think about abandoning her. I hope that she will have a good future…

“I would like to tell other parents like me that they should not lose confidence, and we should continue looking after our children.”

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Help parents like John access the support they need by buying a parent carer training session from our range of Gifts in Motion.

A Gift in Motion is a virtual gift with a difference; your loved one will receive a gift card they can feel truly proud of whilst making a lasting change to someone in the developing world.

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