POSTED: Saturday, December 1, 2012 - 5:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, December 1, 2012 - 5:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — You'd never know it by looking at 11-year-old Adolf Baguma.
On Thanksgiving morning, he piloted a bicycle down a residential street in Thousand Oaks, California not a care in the world, a toothy smile on his face.
But Baguma's young life was marked by tragedy and cruelty in his native Uganda.
Orphaned at a young age, he was seriously burned by a teenaged aunt, who threw flaming banana leaves on the backs of his legs as punishment for trying to take some food.
He was 5 years old.
The aunt then ran away, leaving Adolf to fend for himself, begging on the streets of the city in which he had been born.
Destitute and forgotten, he lost the use of his legs because the damaged skin behind his knees fused together -- the result of not getting treatment right away.
By the time he turned up at a Ugandan orphanage, he was unable to walk, crawling across the floor to stay mobile.
"I don't know how this boy survived," said Eva Mbabazi, one of the orphange's caretakers. "He lost his mother; he lost his father. He doesn't have anyone to help."
A kind-hearted Southern California man decided that needed to change.