Will (R) during the happier times
This is a sad story told by a group of friends, Mai Gad, Maria Hyttel, Wycliff Kansiime, Zach Liao and Marianne Tellier.
It is about Willington Taremwa, a university student and an employee of Reproductive Health Uganda who was hit by a car while riding on a boda boda and left to die on his birthday. Willington Taremwa had a lot of potential. A hard-working university student of population studies and a successful employee for several years with Reproductive Health Uganda as a counsellor, Willington had a bright future ahead.
In addition, Willington, known by his friends as “Will”, was a warm, caring, funny person, a huge support to his colleagues, friends, and family, and held in the highest regard by those that were lucky to know him. December 11, 2010 was Will’s 27th birthday. That day he was studying at Makerere University for one of the last exams necessary to get his degree, as well as preparing a reproductive health youth camp he was coordinating on a voluntary basis.
He was not planning to have a birthday party, as he wanted to save his energy for the challenges of the coming week. Little did he know that his friends had prepared a surprise birthday for him! Sadly, he never found out.
Will, Maria, his mum Joy and Maria
Will left Makerere around 9pm and got on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi). On the way, a car hit the boda. Will flew off the bike to the side of the road. Here the evening’s first tragedy played out: The boda boda and car driver simply took off. Will was rendered unconscious by the fall and must have appeared dead. Thus ensued the second tragedy: Instead of helping him to the hospital or contacting someone from his phone, the passers-by proceeded to take his valuables, as well as all forms of identification, which were essentially of no value to them, but would prove priceless to Will.
Eventually a policeman found him and took him to Mulago hospital. Will slipped in and out of consciousness. As he did not have identification on him, no one knew who he was or whom to contact. The third tragedy sealed his fate: There was no one there to help him fight for his life. At some point he remembered a family address, which he incoherently communicated, but apparently they did not want to or did not have the resources to investigate at that time of night.
Although his injuries were likely treatable, as he was often unconscious and unable to push the doctors to attend to him, he probably did not get the immediate attention that he needed to overcome them; patients that had caretakers around them had a better chance in the human resource-stretched setting of Mulago. Indeed most people in his ward said he was left alone most of the time.
The policeman who had brought him in went to the address the next morning, and his brother was the first to make it to the hospital at 7am. However, he was too late; at that point the doctors were closing Will’s eyes.
Call for reflection
This kind of thing happens all the time in Uganda. Many of us have heard such stories or know someone involved in something similar. Is this really the kind of society we want, where such young, wonderful promising people are robbed of everything – including the chance to survive?
Nowadays in Uganda and elsewhere, you find that people are often thinking about “me first”: “If I don’t take this guy’s wallet, someone else will, so it might as well be me.” This attitude can be a coping mechanism for the pressures of poverty and insecurity. However, it can also make us lose sight of the big picture of how our actions impact the society we live in.
It can be hard to convince people that they have power through their individual actions to change their society, especially when so many people are struggling just to provide for themselves and their families. But this power does exist, and it’s important for us all to realise that. A society is merely the sum of the interactions between all its members, and any positive change, no matter how small, is important. To prevent such situations in future, the government has an important role to play, for example by undertaking campaigns to promote taking care of our fellow citizens, including accident victims.
But you as a person can also make a difference. Will once wrote: “Everything good starts with ignoring a bad thought but welcoming the good one. Look into yourself and look for that good person in you coz no one was born bad person. Who are you?”
Your actions matter and can change things for the better. So if ever you find yourself in such a situation, please do it right. Take the person to the hospital. If you must steal, call the last dialled numbers and let the person’s friends know where he is before taking the phone. At the very least, leave the person’s contacts on them when you take their wallet.
Will’s death left his family and friends hurting, but if we come together and use our powers to change how we behave in such incidences, we will save other families from similar pain. It all starts – and ends – with us.
With much respect to Maria, firstname.lastname@example.org and Observer Media Ltd