LETTER FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR IN UGANDA
Max Ssenyoga is a Mzee. (Pronounced Muzay) In Buganda, the major tribal community of central Uganda where we do most of our work, a Mzee is a trusted elder. Max began his work with Brick by Brick as a community volunteer in 2010. He is a man of Rakai, born and raised in Kalisizo, where Brick by Brick began back in 2003. Max befriended our young Peace Corp volunteer, Jonathan Blanchard, who had an idea about creating a social enterprise, a construction company utilizing Interlocking Stablized Soil Bricks (ISSBs) that help preserve forests and wetlands in sub-Saharan Africa. In time, Max became our first full-time Program Coordinator, helping us to successfully expand our School Program and making Brick by Brick Construction, a profitable social-enterprise with 14 employees. Even when traveling to the most remote villages in the Rakai District, there seems to be not a soul who does not know our Mzee. So when you need the support of a local village chief, or a partner in the district government, there is no one you would rather have at your side than Max!
Several weeks ago Max was in the office working on a report on our recently completed construction projects at three primary schools. Collaboration is a part of Brick by Brick’s culture so for Max to request the assistance of our intern James was not unusual, but the fact that Max was half-crawling across the room to ask his question certainly was! Max and our staff immediately recognized that he was having a stroke. Of course, a stroke is a life-threatening emergency anywhere in the world but even more so in our region of Uganda.
Our staff immediately responded to get Max to one of the best hospitals in Uganda, Nsambya Hospital in Kampala, the capital city. By the time they arrived in the hospital it was very late on a Friday night. James and our driver Aklam Kalule, stayed by Max’s side until his very high blood pressure was stabilized and he was resting comfortably. From the time that Max’s condition was recognized until he was out of danger, our entire staff worked together to ensure that Max was getting the best care possible. The three physicians on our staff, Executive Director, Dr. Dan Murokora, BAMA Clinical Director Dr Eleanor Nakintu and myself, were all in communication to ensure that everything that could be done was being performed in a timely and correct manner. A job well done!
Max is now recovering at home, engaged in a vigorous schedule of physical and occupational therapy. Despite persistent weakness on his left side that has slowed him down a bit, his only complaint is that he can’t return to his job. On a recent visit with Max at his home in Kalisizo, we reminisced on how far we have come since 2010. “Max, can you imagine, just seven years ago, you were our only paid employee.” Max had a wide smile on his face as he said, “I am so happy for all we have accomplished and I am so grateful for my life with Brick by Brick.”
As I sat with Max and his wife Teddy over a traditional Ugandan lunch, I thought of how grateful we all our to have Max with us. How much we all appreciate the many staff who pulled together to support Max. They say “it takes a village to save a child” and this month it took the entire Brick by Brick team to save a life and to show our love and appreciation for our Mzee.
Warmest regards and as always we thank you for your support,
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