The Road to Hope program provides financial and social support for vulnerable children who have lost one or both parents and are unable to continue their education. Most of the children in the program cared for their dying parent(s) or are younger siblings of those who provided care. Healthcare workers affiliated with PCAU identify vulnerable child caregivers for the program. As part of their partnership, Center for Hospice Care/Hospice Foundation and the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU) are committed to providing hope for these children.
In Uganda, like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, children become their parents’ primary caregiver if a parent is struck with a life-threatening condition. With no source of family income, the child typically quits school to earn whatever living can be found. Additional responsibilities often include making sure the household has food, cleaning/bathing the parent and acquiring morphine or other pain-relieving drugs from a palliative care organization. After the parent/parents die, the child caregiver is taken in by members of the extended family. That extended family is often unable to provide more than the bare minimum of food, clothing and schooling for the orphaned children.
Children are referred to the program by healthcare personnel who have completed a palliative care course and returned to their communities to provide palliative care. In the course of their work, they encounter vulnerable child caregivers – they are encouraged to contact PCAU to arrange an assessment. If there is room in program and the child meets the program’s requirements, he/she will be enrolled in the program.
These children are vulnerable in many ways. Many have life-limiting health issues themselves or need socio/emotional support. After being accepted into the Road to Hope program, children are enrolled in a school most suited to meeting their educational and emotional needs. Their progress is regularly monitored by PCAU staff, which includes social workers and nurses. As secondary school students they are given career counseling to determine which vocation is best suited to their skills and abilities. After graduating from school or a vocational program, students may receive a loan from a fund designated for seed grants/start-up money.