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.”
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.”