Indiana Rotarian assists AIDS orphan from Uganda
Bloomington North club president Kirk White (left) presents Allan Akamura with a club banner. Club member Ira Zinman (right) is making a documentary about Allan and the Nyaka AIDS Orphans School in Uganda. Photo by Eric Rudd
Allan Akamura's friends used to push him to school in a homemade wheelchair.
Now the 13-year-old from Uganda, who has cerebral palsy, pedals himself around on a tricycle through the corridors at University Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. He received surgery there to correct problems with his hips, knees, feet, and hands, with help from Ira Zinman and his club, the Rotary Club of Bloomington North, Indiana.
Allan, who lost his father to AIDS when he was a year old and now lives with his uncle, attends the Nyaka AIDS Orphans School in southwestern Uganda. Zinman became acquainted with him while working on a documentary about the school.
"I was in Indiana watching footage, and I see kids at the school walking and running and kicking a ball, and here is this boy crawling," says Zinman, who was reviewing film from a cinematographer he had sent to the school for the documentary. "He didn’t say he wanted to walk or run. He said that when all the students at the school would stand up to sing or pray, he wanted to stand up with them."
When Zinman learned that the medical procedures that could improve Allan's condition were unavailable in Uganda, he enlisted the help of the Children Waiting Everywhere Foundation to lobby University Hospital to provide the surgery free of charge.
Allan flew to Michigan in November for the surgery and is staying with a host family while he undergoes physical therapy to build his strength and flexibility and to develop neuromuscular connections. Doctors are hopeful that he will be able to walk.
In March, Allan's host family took him on a visit the Bloomington North club, during which he traded smiles and laughs with Zinman and other club members. The club has contributed $5,000 for travel and other costs associated with Allan's surgery, and it has committed to providing $3,000 annually in support of the Nyaka school.
Zinman hopes to accompany Allan back to Uganda in mid-November and is planning to shoot footage of him returning to school. The film will tell the story of the school and its 260 students, all of whom have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS, in a country with over one million children orphaned by the virus.
View a clip from Zinman's documentary on YouTube.