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Guardian sets up fund for Ugandan boy

A donation account has been established at Key Bank for a Ugandan youngster who came to Medford last month for knee surgery.

The account to benefit Joel Igodobe as well as his interpreter, Margaret Kakaire, also of Uganda, was set up by Karen Staunton of Medford. The Ugandans are staying with Karen and her husband, Web, during their visit.

"The whole community has been so wonderful already," Karen said, noting as an example, "When Joel needed a prescription filled down at the Phoenix Pharmacy, they gave it to him for free. Everyone has been amazing.

"I don't know how to thank the community for their outpouring of love on these two strangers," she said.

Following his free Jan. 22 surgery at Providence Medford Medical Center to have his left knee mended, Joel, who recently turned 9, received many gifts from local residents, Karen said. However, noting that he won't be able to take most of the toys home with him, she suggests future donations be made in the form of financial contributions.

Just $5 or $10 donated to the account instead of using it to purchase a gift could mean survival in Uganda, she explained. A poor family in Uganda can live on $5 worth of food for up to five days, she noted.

Donations can be made at any branch of Key Bank in care of "donations account for Joel and Margaret," she said. Checks also can be made out to the account and sent to the Stauntons at 5450 Coleman Creek Road, Medford, OR 97501.

Both Joel and Kakaire live in a slum about 2.5 miles from Jinja, a city of about 50,000 some 52 miles east of the capital city of Kampala.

Joel, who needed a crutch to walk when he arrived Jan. 13 in Medford, has only his mom, who is ill, at home. His father abandoned him. Kakaire, 47, who is a friend of Joel's mother, had 10 children but one has died.

Joel's operation was the result of a humanitarian effort by Jacksonville-area resident Jack Smith, a volunteer for Today's Youth Matters, a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian organization based in Milpitas, Calif., dedicated to helping abused and neglected children.

After the group built a water slide at a camp in Uganda a little over a year ago, Smith noticed Joel standing off to the side. Smith discovered the boy had recently broken his left femur immediately above the knee, and that he had earlier broken his left leg at the same point because of a knee problem.

Upon returning to Medford, Smith, who was able to obtain X-rays of Joel's injury, contacted retired physician Harry Walters who took the X-rays to orthopedic surgeon Charles Versteeg of Southern Oregon Orthopedics.

After determining an operation would help Joel, Versteeg did the surgery at no charge while Providence contributed the operating room, nursing staff, medical supplies and 24-hour post-operative care. Jacksonville Physical Therapy has volunteered free physical therapy for Joel. Supporters of the effort also raised funds for round-trip flights for the Ugandans.

In communications with the director of the Uganda-based Action for Empowerment, a group that co-sponsors the camps with Today's Youth Matter, Karen learned that the group had taught Joel's mother how to sew but that she has no sewing machine. With machines costing about $100 or a little more, a purchase is out of the question, she said, noting that is more than an average person could expect to earn in a month.

"The director also told me that if Joel's mom had $2,000 she could buy property and build a house," Karen said.

In addition to raising her own children, Kakaire, who works as a cook for the group, is also taking care of eight nieces and nephews and one granddaughter, Karen said.

"Joel talked to his mother this morning," Karen said Thursday. "She asked him to relay to the community (through Kakaire) how much she appreciates what everyone is doing for him. She is so excited for him."

Surgeons expect that Joel, who had outpatient work done at the hospital Tuesday, will be able to walk without a crutch when he heads back to Uganda in a little over a month, Karen said.

"It has been Joel's dream to someday kick a soccer ball," she said. "I believe he's going to be able to do it."

For more information on Action for Empowerment, check out www.aoet.org online.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

Joel Igodobe of Uganda recovers at Providence Medford Medical Center on Tuesday after surgery to repair his left leg, which had been broken twice. Mail Tribune Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch