Lucas Akol’s infant son, Martine, was constantly sick. He never seemed to get better, and ultimately they took him to the hospital in their native Uganda.
“He tested positive for Malaria, so we thought that explained it,” says Lucas. “But the malaria treatment didn’t work. After two weeks in the hospital, he wasn’t getting any better.”
Ultimately, the lead doctor told Lucas and his wife that Martine had sickle cell disease (SCD), an inherited blood disorder that can make a person more susceptible to health problems and infections.
“I asked God, why me?” Lucas recalls. “People took me aside and told me it was hopeless. That I should leave my wife, before the financial burden overwhelmed me. Some people here still believe this was a curse or the result of witchcraft.”
Lucas learned everything he could about SCD, and found that many children go on to live healthy lives. With the right treatment, many were thriving and successful in business and in their communities. He began to go to churches and ask for ten minutes to speak to congregations with young families to educate them on SCD. He connected with other parents going through the same thing, and they formed a group to provide care and support for SCD children and their families.
When COVID-19 came to Uganda, Lucas immediately thought of the SCD children that he knew who were living in poverty. Many of these families were child-led and food insecure even before the pandemic.
“Kids with sickle cell are always the most at risk for illness. I could not abandon them now, when they need me more than ever,” Lucas said.
The Pollination Project partnered with Lucas to provide emergency food and hygiene supplies to the SCD children and families in his communities. Each family received enough rice, maize flour, and beans for at least thirty meals, along with a generous supply of soap.
“One of the families this supported has six children, and five of them have sickle cell,” Lucas shared. “Before I visited them, the husband was on the verge of abandoning the family. I was able to calm his fears with the gift of these supplies, and also educate him on how to manage the disease. He did not know much of what I shared with him, and he reunited with his wife and children. This was like a miracle to me.”
Today, Martine is five. He is thriving, with a bright smile and a joyful disposition.
“When he was diagnosed, I was resentful and afraid,” shares Lucas. “But now I have so much gratitude for what he has led me to, and the purpose he has given me. I think of all the children who we have tried to help, and all those we will help in the future. It is a blessing to serve.”