In 1998 Judith Tuckey, a midwife and friend of Helen Smith, went to work at Kisiizi Hospital on a two year secondment. After a series of letters asking for advice about various medical matters, Helen thought of going to visit Judith at Kisiizi to help out for a few weeks. In January 1999, she found herself on a bus travelling across southern Uganda to Kisiizi, a remote and beautiful valley in the south-west corner of the country. Kisiizi Hospital was founded in 1958 by Dr John and Mrs Doreen Sharpe and has never closed its doors through all the years of war and atrocity which have cast a shadow over this beautiful country. The current President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, when he was a young boy, was himself treated at the hospital by Dr Sharpe.
This first visit to Kisiizi proved to be a life changing event for Helen. She returned to Reading fuelled with a desire to support Kisiizi and other similar hospitals. The then Medical Superintendent of Kisiizi, Dr Lionel Mills, explained the overwhelming need for support with running costs and out of that conversation came the philosophy behind Sponsor a Nurse, now Kisiizi Partners. The charity was registered with the UK Charity Commission in 2000, and has provided financial support to Kisiizi Hospital ever since.
The relatively weak value of sterling in recent years, coupled with the often high rate of inflation in Uganda, has conspired to make this a difficult task and, even with the support that we can send, the hospital struggles to make ends meet and employ sufficient numbers of skilled staff to deliver care to the large number of patients who come for help.