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Unsung Heroes

These Amazing Ugandans have developed an App that detects and prevents Breast Cancer

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Meet these awesome young men, all fresh graduates of Information Technology at Makerere Univerisity;  Moris Atwine 21, Kabwama Alvin Leonard 22, Lwangwa Mwesigwa David 22 that have developed an app that diagnoses and prevents breast cancer. These three  friends turned their passion for information technology to create solutions that would change the lives of Africans especially the women that are at risk of  suffering the deadly cancer. We took of sometime to chat with them.

What in the  is BreastIT?

BreastIT is a mobile application that aids in the diagnosis and prevention of breast cancer. It carries out timely diagnosis of anomalies in the breast, as breast cancer. This is done by analyzing the images of the inner breast which are obtained through the use of the glove, which with the help of the ultrasound sensors does imaging of the inner breast.

For a complete process, the mobile phone with a windows operating system does the image analysis by running the images that it has received from the glove through its database and gives results basing on the conclusive analysis it does.

How does it work?

BreastIT is a mobile phone application designed for windows phone that carries out timely diagnosis of breast cancer using the information relayed to it by the “Hyphen glove” which is the hardware connected to windows phone.

The glove is made up of piezoelectric crystals that are attached at the top of the palm. These crystals generate ultrasound that scans the inner part of the breast, gets images which are later sent to phone via Bluetooth for diagnosis.

Diagnosis is one of the main features of the app and once a user selects this functionality, he or she is prompted to start. Once one chooses the start option, the hyphen glove is turned on. A user must be wearing the glove by time it is turned on, then one can gently place in front of the breast of the patient, hover around to get a clear picture of the inside.

This picture is generated by the crystals through ultrasound. After a clear picture is obtained, it is saved in phone’s database and phone gives results basing on the conclusive analysis it does and user can upload them to the one drive for safer storage or for purposes of sharing the results with the radiologist.

Additionally, BreastIT shows you how to go about checking your breasts with a handy video, plus you will be able to find out how your lifestyle could affect your risk of getting breast cancer. BreastIT also offers information about different radiologists within your area or country, hence making it easy for user to get any medical advice from them.

 

Who is behind this amazing app?

Moris Atwine – He is the Team Lead and Developer!

Kabwama Alvin Leonard – He works as the hardware engineer and designer.

Lwangwa Mwesigwa David – He’s the lead researcher of the team.

What problems does it seek to solve?

Women from Sub-Saharan Africa were found to have a low incidence of breast cancer. This was partly explained by a largely protective reproductive history. The average at diagnosis however is approximately 10 years younger than breast cancer patients in western nations. This is why we come up with this project, that reduces the risk of mortality at an early age since the screening and diagnosis can be done early and easily.

We look at reducing the deaths in women and men who die of this cancer in Africa, and worldwide through the use of BreastIT which is of much help, cheap and portable.

Uganda, as our case study, breast cancer can be prevented if and only if there is early diagnosis. This is where BreastIT comes in handy. It’s very vital and important for one to know how bad the situation they are in is, and this is only possible if one carries out early diagnosis. More so, Uganda is about the size of all the New England states (The whole New England states have over

600 member radiologists, a geographic area with a population of 14 million) lumped together and has a population of 35 million.

So how many radiologists are there in Uganda? 42. And 32 of these 42 live in the city of Kampala, whose population is 1.7

Million. The other 10 radiologists in Uganda are “Up-Country”, meaning that they work in more rural areas. With that brief exploration of demographics, access to radiology is limited.

What other opportunities do you think this app is likely to create?

Among the Product’s marketing strategy is to create health booths in village centers, where people will receive a training and later get employed to help the locals with accessing the services.

There is insufficient information at the cancer registries about people who diagnose for breast cancer annually, the information available shall help cancer registries to get accurate statistics.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

Moris lost a relative to Breast cancer, together with the team thought of a way they could stop family history (one of common causes to breast cancer) from affecting the other family members and that’s how BreastIT came up.

What is your greatest achievement so far?

Last Saturday at the Annual Mozilla Festival East Africa, The President of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was impressed with the product and was happy to note that he will fully support it through its final development stages, commercialization and scaling.

We were also runners Up of the ICT For Development Award in the just concluded ACIA Awards by Uganda communications Commission where we managed to win USD 5,000.1250  (on the placard was the cash prize) plus 3750 implementation grant.

We were also among the online finals winners of the Microsoft Imagine Cup in the World Citizenship Category, and as only team from Africa and Middle East!

What in your view is the future of technology in Uganda?

Innovators continue to tackle most of these pressing problems meaning the future is clearly bright, but we can’t deliver as expected if the Government doesn’t come up to fully support us through funding our research as some of these projects need experts to make it to the product stage.

Are there times you have wanted to give up?

We have never really thought about that, we are solving one of the silent killers among women in the world, and too affects men which we easily beat.

 What keeps you going during tough times?

I always believe that through innovation, we are saving a life, creating awareness and making the world a better place to live in.

What other projects have you worked on?

We have so far worked on another mobile application code named visual+ which helps the visually impaired to access and be able to manage the most frequently used applications on phones as making phone calls and playing music.

This is done with the use of gestures and a voice commands to help the user interact with a smart phone as any other person clearly looking at the phone.

Any last Words to the reader?

“There is nothing quite like the satisfaction that comes from solving a real challenge that fellow Africans and the whole world in particular face” – Moris Atwine, Founder and Lead BreastIT

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. abdoulayebah

    July 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    One of my fondest memories of my recent visit to Kampala was the visit to Makerere University. It isn’t perhaps rich, I but I found it clean, with well cut grass and clear directions for the faculties and other services. So it’s not a surprise if an education system like this generate small scholars.

    Congratulations to these young geniuses. I hope their invention will find a good development for large scale production.

  2. BreastIT

    August 2, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Reblogged this on BreastIT and commented:
    Interview with This Is Uganda.. Please read through, and get back to us! #BreastIT #UgApps #Innovation

  3. BreastIT

    August 2, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Thanks This Is Uganda folks for the exciting interview and Abdoulayebah for that enriching comment!

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Collective Good

He Grew Up in Bwaise Slum. Today, Kisirisa has Educated and Empowered Young People like Him

Muhammed most commonly known as Slum Ambassador, was born and raised in Bwaise, the most deprived and perhaps largest slum area in Kampala. At the tender age of 11, he found his first job as a tap water operator. He would also carry water and pick garbage from people’s homes. On some occasions he would sell metal scrap all in an attempt to get an education, put clothes on his back and get something to eat.

“I picked interest in Computers when I was 25 years and began to teach myself at various internet cafes. I focused on creating profiles for HIV orphans and trying to see if I could link them up with potential sponsors for fees and assistance.” Mohammed says

Later, in 2009, together with 3 other young people, he formed Action for Fundamental Change and Development (AFFCAD) a community based organization set out to transform Kampala’s poorest areas by empowering the young people, children and women through health, education and economic empowerment programs like vocational and entrepreneurship training.

A vocational training for youth underway at AFFCAD. (Photo by AFFCAD)

Since its establishment, AFFCAD’s primary focus was supporting orphans and vulnerable children and making awareness on health issues including HIV/AIDS awareness and adolescent sexual reproductive health. In June 2011 they established a community nursery and primary school called Excel Education Center that supports 200 children from Bwaise slums.

Todate, it has graduated 1,047 youth. This equates to a completion rate of 90%. Of those who have graduated 697 are female and 350 are male.

“AFFCAD’s Youth economic empowerment program provides the hands on skills that enable the disadvantaged youth in Kampala’s slums to transit from lives of crime and poverty to lives of productive occupation. “ He explains.

Through AFFCAD’s Bwaise Business and Vocational Institute, the targeted youth between 16-25 years participate in a 6 month vocational training program in applicable skills like Computer Graphics Design, Photography and Videography, Cookery and Bakery, Tailoring and Fashion design, Electronic installation, Hairdressing and Cosmetology, Decoration and Ushering among others.

Women during a graduation after completing the Women Business and Financial Access course (Photo by AFFCAD)

“As part of the program, the Youth are also equipped with entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy, soft and hard skills for career and professional development (How to Make it in the Contemporary Business World) and they Youth take on one month internships at the end of the training to expose them to working environments.” Muhammed explains.

In addition, the project also provides IT Training to the youth on how to strategically use ICT (including internet, social media, Web 2.0 and mobile technology) to market and sustain their business ventures.

Each year AFFCAD runs The Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and Award, to support the business ideas developed by the youth in the program, a mentoring session and a scholarship to attend a 5-day entrepreneurship foundation course at the innovation entrepreneurship boot camp. Every Friday, AFFCAD invites successful youth and other leaders to motivate and inspire our youth.

Muhammad standing next to one of the entrances at AFFCAD. (Internet photo)

AFFCAD runs the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and Award, 15 winners have received micro start up grants between $1500 to $2500 to develop their business ideas, a mentoring session, and a scholarship to attend a 5-day entrepreneurship foundation course at the innovation entrepreneurship Boot Camp.

In August 2017, Muhammad received the 2017 Young Achievers Award for Social Entrepreneurship in recognition for his work with AFFCAD.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Unsung Heroes

Being HIV Positive, Diagnosed with Cancer & Tuberculosis Has not stopped this Superwoman From Looking After 150 Kids in Slums

“A strong woman doesn’t give up even though her heart may feel heavy. She courageously takes one more step, then another and then another.” –Anonymous

Stella Airoldi first met Susan laker in 2009 when she first came to Uganda while doing research about post war victims and witnesses.

“I visited her house, where she was living with her 3 teenage kids. Back then I was 24 years old and Susan 26 years, so just two years older than me.  But her kids were already 9,10 and 13 years old.” Stella says.

Because Susan got pregnant for the first time when she was only 13, her kids didn’t go to school and neither did she. A soldier was responsible for her first pregnancy while she was living in a military barracks which by then, was the only safe place for her to go to escape the insurgency caused by the Lords Resistance Army in Northern Uganda.

“Getting pregnant when I was 13 years old was so traumatizing. I lost my childhood life. I wasn’t able to go to school which made me lost my hope for living a good future. I hated my parents for forcing me in to early marriage, my growth was totally destroyed and I segregated myself from people because I felt inferior.”- Susan notes.

Susan with some of the beneficiaries of 22STARS. (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

When Susan was 15 years old, she conceived again but got a miscarriage when she received a message notifying her that her uncles, nieces, a brother and sister had been mutilated and killed by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

“I was shocked and lost the pregnancy. After a few months, I conceived again and gave birth to a second child at the age of 16 and when the baby was 6 months, the father died and since I had nowhere to get financial help from, I was forced to  remarry another soldier from the barracks to get protection and when I was 19 I gave birth to the third child.” Susan says

In 2007, her husband was deployed to Somalia on a peacekeeping and never returned, a thing that left Susan very frustrated. It was shortly after that, that she found out that she was HIV positive, had cancer and Tuberculosis (TB). It was not until an organization called Reach Out Mbuya came to her rescue that she was able to start cancer chemotherapy and TB drugs for six months and now am on ARVs treatment for life.

She then fled with all her children to Kampala which were (and still remain) her main reason and motivation to keep going in life. Her kids were tested negative and she wanted them to go to school. She started making jewellery, which initially her kids would sell in the streets.

Susan and some of her children (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

“It was then my pastor introduced me to Stella. I was making paper beads jewellery and Stella decided to buy me jewellery on a yearly basis. At the end of 2012 when she came back to Uganda to see how I was doing, she was surprised to learn that I was going back to school by myself and I had improved.” Susan notes.

Susan has been able to buy land and built a bigger house for her family. She completed high school and did a couple of short courses to improve her skills and knowledge for example a  certificate in Clearing, Forwarding and Shipping management, Certificate in Electronics, Certificate in Counseling People Living with HIV/AIDS.

“At first, all my friends and family thought I was completely crazy starting with women who cannot read and write and I cannot even communicate with. So true, things didn’t go that smooth the first 2 years. So end of 2014 I came back to Kampala and since 2015 I am here myself 2 to 3 times a year and things improved a lot.”- Stella says.

Stella (left) and Susan during one of the jewellery making sessions (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

Susan is now managing the whole team of at 22STARS jewellery that comprises of over 20 women and supporting 150 children in slums. Thanks to recurring monthly donations, she (Susan) has been cooking in Acholi Quarter every Sunday since October 2016 ( so more than 14 months!) with the help of other 22STARS group members. The group started back then to cook for 50 kids and that is now 150. They get a hot meal with either fish or meat.

22STARS is a team of artisans made up by strong women living in the slums of Kampala and Jinja in Uganda making jewellery for a living. The platform is giving women in slum areas like Susan to sell their jewellery on the international market and earn a living, and in addition war running small social programs on the ground.

“Our choice for environmentally friendly products is a very conscious one. By using 100% recycled paper, the jewellery you wear does not only look good, but it also feels good. Our beads are hand made from paper and varnished with natural products.  This makes each peace uniquely different, lightweight and waterproof.” Stella says.

Some of the 22STARS women that make jewellery (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

22STARS also uses education and entrepreneurship to empower children and their families to rise above poverty by creating long-term sponsorships for children in Uganda, and also run several community development initiatives including a nutrition program, basic needs program, small business training and micro loans program and our holistic educational program with extra-curricular activities.

“Without the help of Susan this all would not have been possible. As she knows how it feels like to sit in the stone quarry with your kids, crashing stones all day, not being able to send them to school, she is pushing very hard to help all the families over there to send their kids to school. She is so amazing how she is managing everything. Susan is a true superstar and really the strongest woman I ever met.” Stella concludes.

Stella and Susan at the 22STARS office. (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Uganda Innovates

Athieno Mary Lucinda is changing girls’ lives one sanitary pad at a time

She stood up in class, her classmates laughed at her. The boys said that she had slaughtered a chicken. They made fun of her for a long time. She couldn’t afford sanitary towels, the anxiety of the monthly period coupled with the embarrassment she had faced which would have destroyed her self-esteem as a young girl instead stirred her resolve.

Meet Athieno Mary Lucinda a YALI fellow, the founder of Eco-Pads a social enterprise dedicated to the production and distribution of reusable pads and environmentally friendly to girls in Uganda.

“That experience kept me wondering what I would ever do to save a girl the embarrassment I had gone through. While at university, I went to volunteer with Kadama Widows Association where I am the Executive Director now and as I interacted with the girls, they had similar challenges. I then started saving part of my stipend to make the pads and that was my aha moment.” Lucinda says.

The sanitary pads are distributed to young women in rural Uganda. These Eco-pads are Menstrual Kits that are made from very high performance fabric and provide comfort and supper protection for a period up to 12 months.

“The Eco-pads project started in 2008 as a local thing trying to just help girls in the community. In 2014 we realized we can improve on quality and start selling for sustainability and we have been growing daily from just the local community to many parts of the country with over 20 full time  and 35 part time employees.”

“I am most proud of last year when we reached 50,000 girls with Eco-Pads, the feedback from the girls attending school daily is heart-filling. The involvement of parents and the whole community in the cause is great. We have reached over 75,000 community members on Menstruation being an issue and how they support. Mentored over 10,000 girls” Lucinda says.

There are challenges that are still to be overcome. Being a local product, Lucinda’s biggest challenge has been in marketing and getting the product to be known, convincing the clients that it is a good product since it is new. The very first money that they used was grant money that they used to buy equipment and set up and buy some few materials.

Despite the challenges, she has mentors that encourage her when things are going down hill. my “Atuki Turner the ED of Mifumi, Tracey the founder of glad rags U.S, Mary Mosinghi the ED of KwaAfrica. They remaind me that I need to remain a learner and humble in whatever I do.”

At the heart of this project is the desire by Eco pads that every girl child remains in school. Eco-pads give affordable sanitary pads for girls, because many miss out of school during their menstruation. They are competing against appalling statistics 80% of Girls in Uganda are absent from school during their periods. 70% of female students reported difficulty of attending class attentively due to menstrual related problems. 90% of the poor women and girls do not use (off-the-shelf) sanitary pads, but instead improvise with unsanitary materials. Prior to their first period only 51% of girls had knowledge of menstruation and its management

“We educate girls on MHM, conduct mentorship sessions and educate the parents and teachers on the need to support girl child. We shall continue to do something regardless of the tide. One sanitary pad at a time.” Lucinda says

lucinda-1 lucinda

 

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