Sightsavers Reports

“I had to have courage to do what other people were doing”

Charles Ahumuza at work as an engineer.

Charles is the kind of person you want on your team. He’s confident and knows what he’s doing. And he’s a collegiate and caring mentor to new recruits, according to his team leader.

As we watch Charles at work, it’s clear why these qualities are vital. We see Charles and one of his teammates climb to the top of a newly erected (and not yet fully secured) electrical pole, in a suburb on the outskirts of Kampala city.

Charles, who is partially sighted and was born with vision in only one eye, is living his childhood dream, working as an electrical engineer for a technical services company in Kampala, Uganda. He secured the job after receiving training and an internship as part of Sightsavers’ Connecting the Dots programme, which supports young people with disabilities to help them find work.

“I came to Kampala last year when I was employed by Muttico Technical Company,” he explains. “We work in maintenance, replacing broken poles, that kind of thing.

“I enjoy my work. In fact, I’m really proud of it! From childhood, I grew up wanting to be an electrician, so I couldn’t allow anything to divert me from my chosen career. I get good feedback from my customers – they report that I’m a good electrician.”

“Sightsavers helped me to push ahead with my studies. It was how I managed to begin my career”

“It was my starting point”

Growing up in Hoima district in western Uganda as a young person with a disability, Charles’s prospects could have been limited.

“I have had no sight in one of my eyes since childhood. I asked my mother and she said I had it from the womb, that I was born like this,” he explains.

But he was determined not to let his limited sight hold him back. “Since I knew I was like this, I had to have courage and do what other people were doing anyway.”

Sightsavers’ Connecting the Dots programme offered Charles a year’s study at a vocational institute, which helped start him out on his chosen career path and begin gaining the qualifications he needed. As his knowledge grew, he began taking on casual jobs in his neighbourhood, helping people to solve electrical issues in their homes. This enabled him to put his knowledge into practice and prove to potential customers – ­­­­­and himself – that he was capable.

At the time, he was living at home with his mother and two younger sisters, and he remembers how his work made an immediate, significant impact on his family’s standard of living.

“People would call me and say: ‘You come and help me find a fault in my house!’” he recalls. “Money from those small jobs sustained me. And Sightsavers helped me to push ahead with my studies. It was my starting point, and how I managed to begin my career, so I appreciate that.

“My internship was also good – I had an interest to learn more. It’s different from what you learn at school; an internship enabled me to get real experience.”

A lady is sitting using a sewing machine in a dark room.

Connecting the Dots

Our Connecting the Dots training and employment programme has transformed the lives of young people with disabilities in Uganda.

About the programme

Helping people to realise their potential

Following the success of the Connecting the Dots programme, and positive feedback from people such as Charles who have taken part, Sightsavers is launching a new programme in four countries (Uganda, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Kenya) to help people with disabilities find employment on the open jobs market.

The Inclusion Works programme, funded by UK aid, is testing innovative ways to improve job opportunities for people with disabilities of all ages, enabling them to find decent work, earn a living and pursue their career goals. And we’re working in partnership with 10 global organisations to ensure more of an impact.

The end goal is to make sure more people with disabilities, such as Charles, are given an equal chance to realise their potential.

Thanks to Sightsavers’ support, Charles has set himself new goals and now has bigger plans for the future, which include creating job opportunities for others. “In August this year, I’m planning to go back to my studies,” he explains. “I’ll update from an advanced certificate to a diploma in electrical engineering. It works in levels – you can go up to a degree.

“My longer-term goal is to have my own electrical company, if God is on my side. It may be 20 years from now. I’d really like to be a job creator and to employ others – that’s my target.”

Three men holding walking sticks stand arm in arm.

Inclusion Works

This three-year programme, funded by UK aid, focuses on training people with disabilities in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, and helping them to find formal employment.

About the programme

The European Commission funded the economic empowerment programme from 2012, and additional funding was awarded in August 2017 by the National Lottery Community Fund. This generous support has helped to transform the lives of hundreds of young people with disabilities in Uganda.

A group of engineers.

“I enjoy my work. In fact, I’m really proud of it! From childhood, I grew up wanting to be an electrician.”

A group of engineers.

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