Lucas Akol: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Children During COVID-19

by | Jul 3, 2020 | Heartivist Of The Week

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.”

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Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
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With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
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Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
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Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
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With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
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cellagbrazil
In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.