Biiara Gatrida is a forty year old widow, solely responsible for looking after her two daughters. She suffered from polio leaving both her legs non-functional. She wore thongs on her hands and used them as her feet to drag herself all over. It was painful to watch her straining at each step. At the same time, one cannot help but marvel at how well she managed herself, as if her disability did not exist.
Despite her condition, Gatrida learned how to weave mats and baskets, make handicrafts, sew and raise poultry. She now makes and sells hand-made articles to support herself and also imparts her skills to others. She leads a group of children with disabilities, another group of parents of children with disabilities and the third group of adults with disabilities. Some of these people are unable to walk, others are vision-impaired, a few are hearing-impaired, and still others have multiple disabilities. Some of them have parents with disabilities while others were themselves born with disabilities. All of them are very poor. They live in small villages in the Rwenzori mountain range. So, transportation is their biggest challenge. The cost of transportation as well as the hardship they suffer while travelling make their lives very difficult. Yet, Gatrida strives to help them as well as she can and teaches her skills in the hope that these folks with disabilities will one day become independent.
Gatrida was the catalyst to spark the CANUGAN Disability Support Project. An Ottawa couple was moved by her story especially by her wish to acquire a vehicle as she was tired of asking others for assistance with transportation. The Ottawa couple immediately offered to buy her a wheel chair. Based on advice from knowledgeable individuals in Kasese, it was decided to opt for lighter and easily maneuverable tricycles instead of heavier wheel chairs. A local manufacturer constructed a tricycle for Gatrida. This led to the production and distribution of 13 more tricycles to the mobility-impaired persons and 30 white canes to the vision-impaired. Eventually, the project was formalized late last year.
Today, Gatrida tirelessly continues her efforts on behalf of others with disabilities. Her challenges are many and huge, but with her low-key and confident personality, she perseveres with patience and commitment.