Kasozi Abdu-Karim is the national director of Bakadde Foundation Network (BAFNET), a nonprofit organization that works to improve on the standard of living of elderly people. Mr. Kasozi told The Campus Journal how BAFNET helps the elderly.
How do you define an elderly person?
According to the Constitution of Uganda an elderly person is a male or female person who has attained the age of 60 years and above. At BAFNET we take this as the first step in our selection, and then we look at the poverty levels. So by the time we select a beneficiary he or she should be chronically poor and aged from 60 and above.
What do you mean by chronically poor?
Poverty is when one cannot afford to buy something basic for him or herself. It’s estimated that an ordinary Ugandan deep in these villages cannot spend one dollar a day, which implies that they may fall sick and fail to reach the hospital. So as BAFNET we move in and search for these people and give them a new life and hope.
How do you help them?
We offer psychological counseling. In many cases elderly people are left alone in the villages by their relatives and friends who go to towns to seek for greener pastures.
The elderly reach a time when they are psychologically tortured; some might be traumatized or may develop other psychological problems. So we talk to these people and they feel okay. At times they just need people around them to share stories, so we provide that.
We also provide professional/medical counseling. Some elderly people get diseases that affect them but still cannot allow taking medicine. Thus we come out and talk to them and in the end they take medication. Others get diseases which come with aging, and with this they tend to have low self-esteem. As BAFNET we come up and talk to them so that they can still believe in themselves.
Apart from counseling, how else do you help the elderly?
We categorize the elderly people into two: those ranging from 60-75 years we believe that they are still strong and energetic enough to do farming, so we train them how to do that and sometime in the future we are looking at giving out poetry, seeds and other plantations to these people so that they can improve on their income levels. This will be mainly for those who have enough land to do the farming.
Another category is that of the elderly ranging from 75 and above, we believe these are very old and weak so we have to provide for them. That’s why we need land to grow food crops so that we can be able to help out more and more people.
Have you thought of establishing a home for the elderly comparable to those in the West?
I think this is the biggest idea behind all this project, and God willing, we are looking at having a hospice in future where those in their late 70s can stay and be cared for. We have established that these people are not respected at all and they are told to line up in long queues in hospitals. So once we have come up with a facility that is mainly for them I think this will help them much but time has to tell.
Where did you get the passion to help the elderly?
I did Industrial and Organizational Psychology (at university) and my research topic was on HIV/AIDS and during my discovery I found out that many elderly people were living with orphaned children due to HIV/AIDS. Most of the people I visited lacked almost all basic items and that is why I came up with the idea of helping the elderly and orphans.
In which areas do you operate?
BAFNET currently is working in six districts namely; Kampala, Mpigi, Masaka, Wakiso, Mukono and Mityana.
What fee do the elderly and orphaned people pay in order to become BAFNET members?
There is no fee, and I repeat, we do not charge beneficiaries at all.
What challenges do you face?
Lack of land: in order to achieve our goal of helping the old-age people in Uganda, we need some land to locate offices and put up demonstration sites countrywide. If we can have like 5-10 hectares where we can grow food staff like cassava, beans, peas, etc, which can be donated to the beneficiaries and also help us generate some income so that we create a financial base for BAFNET.
We also face a challenge of wild expectations from the beneficiaries. When you visit an elderly person and offer your help they will always fall back on you and expect a lot yet we have little help since the organization is just one year old.
And lastly, we still have limited volunteers and donor groups.