Sielenbach: He was born in Sielenbach and builds wheelchairs for children in Uganda

In a therapy center, 700 to 800 children with disabilities receive support every month. Michael Arzberger helps them become more mobile again.

Michael Arzberger, born in Sielenbach, a road builder and architect, has worked and lived in Uganda – “the pearl of Africa”, as he calls it – since the middle of last year. His architectural studies and his acquaintance with the Englishman Steve Williams led him first to South Africa and finally to Uganda. In recent years, a therapy center for children with disabilities has been created here under the leadership of Steve Williams, where Arzberger not only supports the construction of the building, but also develops and builds wheelchairs, walking aids and prostheses for the children.

People with disabilities are often excluded in Uganda

In Uganda, physical and mental disabilities are mostly seen by people as “God’s revenge,” Arzberger explains. They are therefore largely excluded from community life. Therefore, there are hardly any opportunities for schooling. Inclusion is a foreign word, and aids are hard to come by. Steve Williams became aware of these abuses because his son was born with a disability. Kyaninga Child Development Center was built on the site of an ancient resort in western Uganda.

The 33-year-old Michael Arzberger, born in Sielenbach, has lived in Uganda since mid-2021 and supports children with disabilities there.

Photo: Alice Lauria

This therapy center for children with disabilities works monthly with 700 to 800 children in the town of Fort Portal and the surrounding villages. The center provides children with speech therapy, physiotherapy, behavioral therapy, nutrition programs, hydrotherapy and epilepsy programs. The employees there also help with social work and customer care and are particularly active in educational work to remove the fear and superstition of physical and mental disabilities from the population. All these offers are made available free of charge to the children.

Uganda’s population is the youngest in the world in terms of age. Half of the 47 million people in Uganda are under 15 years old. With 8.2 percent of people living with disabilities, the proportion of children with disabilities is particularly high, as Michael Arzberger explains. The 33-year-old from Sielenbach has been in charge of the Kyaninga Mobility project since November last year. Here, together with twelve employees, he develops wheelchairs, walking aids and prostheses as well as other aids that are unaffordable for the mostly very poor population in Uganda due to high import duties. The alternative would be cheaper wheelchairs made in Asia, which would be completely unsuitable for the terrain in Fort Portal with steppe and rainforest, and whose spare parts are virtually impossible to get hold of in Uganda, as Arzberger reports.

Michael Arzberger works mainly with bamboo for his wheelchairs

Arzberger therefore only manufactures wheelchairs and aids from regional materials. Bamboo is the most important material here. In addition, steel from a local steel producer is used. Tires and brakes are made of simple bicycle parts. In production, different types of disabilities and the individual child’s individual needs are met flexibly, which makes the wheelchairs unique. The project is funded solely by donations because the government of Uganda only verbally supports the work of the therapy center.

Also read about this

An inclusive model school is also part of the center. New premises are needed for this and the therapy center. “The development of these measures is highly dependent on donations,” says Michael Arzberger. The energy farmers around Sepp Bichler from Sielenbach are already actively supporting Arzberger and Williams in this charitable project. “I have the time and opportunity to support such projects. You can see how simple things can have a positive impact on people’s lives there,” says Michael Arzberger, explaining the motivation that led him to Uganda. “The reward is knowing you’ve given the kids a better life.” He will stay in Uganda for at least another year.

Donation account: Anyone who would like to support the Kyaninga Child Development Center can do so at: Donation Account Building for Orange Farm eV Stadtsparkasse Munich; IBAN DE03 7015 0000 0909 1242 73 BIC SSKMDEMMXXX (with donation receipt)

Leave a Comment