Driven by her love for books and art, Susan Tusabe felt that the only way she can impact lives of children in her community is through teaching kids how to read and write. She believes that literacy is the center of everything and a basic need for a successful community.
“In this era of information, literacy is the number one avenue through which we can solve other problems faced in our communities say, HIV/AIDS, early teenage pregnancies, violence and gender inequality good governance.” Susan says
For how long have you been interested in literature and books? Where did you get the inspiration?
I have been interested in literature since my first memories, growing up I did not have many books but my parents had the bible, I remember just loving to read it as a book. Then later in my teenage life I discovered many stories and writers like Charles Dickens and the inspiration I got from such stories and words was pushed me to be stronger, a better learner and a more hopeful person.
Tell us about the work of Art of a Child.
Art of a Child is a community organization dedicated to empower children and young people through literacy and art skills as well as equipping them with the ability to become change makers in their own communities.
Art of a child was chosen as a name because we believe every young person has the ability, the potential or a talent, call it ‘an art’ that they can use as a tool to make their lives better.
We run reading clubs for children in underserved communities, a book festival and a read aloud day for social mobilization of literacy among communities, literacy camps.
What have been your greatest inspirations, lessons in working with children?
We believe they have great potential and are hindered only by lack of mentors or a better education and when we take them into our program they are willing and excited to learn, that even inspires us even more! Personally, what I have learnt from these children are-every child out there is hungry for knowledge and has dreams, they just need someone to believe in them and show them that there is hope.
So how did you end up in the literacy projects and yet you are a trained finance graduate?
I worked in the finance feel but then I got bored and I did not feel like I was utilising my full potential, I am people oriented and love working people hands on rather than dealing with computers. When I started a reading club near my home area at that time, I realized I was more happy working with children in the community than the office work, I therefore looked more into their needs and saw that all the problems they faced was because they had no literacy skills.
What have been your greatest challenges?
The greatest challenge has been going to communities that are only used to getting help through handouts like money, food and not appreciating the services that empower them, however the children love the workshops we have with them, so as time goes on the parents appreciate after seeing positive changes in their children’s behavior as they love school more, become better readers and love community work activities.
Despite your challenges, what are your most outstanding achievements?
Getting the children we work with out of their little boxes, developing school lovers and readers has been the most outstanding.
What do you have to tell fellow youth that have no jobs?
There is an art in all of us, our job is to discover it, our passions will push us do things and also if we ask ourselves what we can do to change a situation- after we discover what we love, we can then try to use it to change the situation-it is a good start to employ ourselves.
You are an upcoming poet, musician, trained finance manager, finance manager, social entrepreneur and artist? What’s your secret in balancing all these responsibilities?
Ha Ha haha! I don’t think I am all that, the poetry and music are a hobby, something I do to relax and enjoy good times with friends. The secret is just doing things I enjoy doing, I am passionate about young people so going to spend time with them is a fun time, discovering their minds, teaching and learning from them and enjoying good books as a community.
So please share with us any links where we can get more details about your work.
Art of a Child-Uganda on Facebook
What do you have to tell to the world about Uganda that they did not know?
Uganda is rich. I don’t know who is out there saying Uganda is poor and what their basis is!
By Denis Ssesanga
How Kakooza is changing perceptions about mental health in Uganda
Liz Kakooza has struggled with depression herself. She has had it ever since she was a child. She never knew depression was a very big issue until 2015 when she was diagnosed with it and had to be in constant monitoring by a psychiatrist.
However when she recovered, she realized that there were no organizations doing work to address the mental health issue in Uganda at a time when many cases of depression were on the rise.
“I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and having experienced stigma first hand and with the lack of access to adequate mental health care in Uganda, I made it my life’s purpose to raise awareness around it which in turn will address the issue of stigma.” Liz notes.
The mental health situation in Uganda
In 2006, The Principal Medical Officer in charge of Mental Health at the Health Ministry, Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi, had predicted that there was going to be a significant increase in mental health illnesses over the next years. In 2016, The IOGT International reported that there had been 500% increase in mental disorders in Uganda.
Globally according to the World Health Organization, One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
Stigma associated with mental illness also is a significant barrier to care. People with mental health problems are amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to find work, be in a steady, long-term relationship, live in decent housing and be socially included in mainstream society.
Founding Tumaini Foundation
“I started the Tumaini Foundation after identifying a need in the Mental Health space in Uganda and the continent as a whole.” Says Liz Kakooza, the Founder and Executive Director of Tumaini Foundation, World Economic Forum Global Shaper for Uganda, A Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Fellow 2017 and a LéO Africa Institute‘s Young & Emerging Leaders (YELP) Fellow.
Tumaini Foundation’s approach is threefold aimed at raising awareness and address the stigma around mental health, improve access to health care for people living with mental health issues and influence and implement policy and legislation around mental health.
“In my journey of recovery, I have learnt that true recovery comes from helping others going through the same challenges which is why I started Tumaini Foundation.” Liz states as she recalls her story.
Tumaini Foundation’s focus is also on addressing stigma. Liz through her foundation believes that stigma comes from a place of ignorance and by educating people about mental health, everyone will be able to address the stigma around mental health which will have a ripple effect and open doors for our initiatives.
However the journey to launching the foundation and starting her work has also not been easy. Liz has not yet been able to identify many stakeholders in the mental health space in Uganda as the topic remains not talked about
Uganda on the other hand, has only one psychiatric hospital to handle all mental cases from across the country which becomes a very big challenge for individuals like Liz.
As Daily Monitor reported, Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital (commonly known as Butabika hospital or Butabika) is Uganda’s second largest hospital and the centre for mental health treatment and education in the country. The hospital may house anywhere from 700 to 800 patients at any one time, although it was built for a capacity of 550 patients.
But that has not stopped her from achieving her goals.
“I have used crowd funding techniques and engaged partners in my networks to get the ball rolling to change the conversation around mental health in Uganda. The message has spread further than anticipated to even different parts of the continent.”- Liz notes.
Currently, the foundation has a number of projects it is running. Recently, the foundation was able to start work on its first treatment center Africa Retreat Center (ARC). ARC is an intensive out-patient facility and rehab center. It offers different treatment and rehabilitation programs for people living with mental health disorders and addiction issues.
Other programs by the foundation include; Tumaini Combat whose aim is to work with the army, Tumaini Woman which addresses mental health issues prevalent among women, Tumaini Ingane which addresses the onset of mental health challenges among children and Tumaini Lifeline; Which is a suicide & crisis counseling hot-line.
“We plan to roll-out an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) where we will work with employers (corporations & private businesses) to address mental health challenges in the workplace and to develop mental health policies.
With the Tumaini Foundation, Liz believes that it is through sharing of personal stories that the foundation will be able to change the conversation around mental health. In this spirit, the foundation is slowly rolling out several communications initiatives e.g. a blog that will be live soon to share stories about mental health that are within the African context.
Meet the Ugandans on the TEDGlobal 2017 Fellows list
A playwright, an Investigative Journalist and a former refugee living in Uganda are among the new class of the TED Global Fellows class of 2017.
The three are among the 21 fellows, ten of which are from African countries like Somalia, Nigeria, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Egypt and Liberia that will each, deliver a talk at this year’s TED Global gathering this August in Arusha, joining 436 other fellows from 94 countries around the world.
Below, get to know the new group of Fellows who will join us at TEDGlobal 2017, August 27–30, in Arusha, Tanzania.
Adong is a Theater/Film Creative Director, Writer & Producer, who creates captivating plays and films that provoke and promote dialogue on social issues affecting underprivileged groups. Judith’s outspokenness has led her to create work that provokes dialogue and social change on issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to war crimes. She is also the artistic director of Silent Voices Uganda, a not-for-profit performing arts organization.
Kakande is a Ugandan journalist working undercover in the Middle East to uncover the human-rights abuses of migrant workers. His autobiographical novel The Ambitious Struggle, is a fascinating and gripping account of life in the United Arab Emirates, as seen and reported on by a Ugandan journalist resident for over a decade in Dubai. The first such account of its kind, in outlining the duties he was assigned (in print and broadcast media) and the news events that made it (or did not make it) into the print and and broadcast media, one gains a keen look at the points of sensitivity in the complex society of the UAE.
Hakiza is of DRC origin. He is the Co-Founder of Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) an NGO based in Kampala that is uniting urban refugees through avenues like sports, English classes, and vocational skills training in order to address social issues like ethnic conflicts, unemployment, public health, and lack of access to education.
Refugees that YARID serves mainly come from the Great Lakes Region: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.Hakiza and his colleagues are helping these urban refugees learn new skills.
Nyege Nyege Music Festival listed among the World’s 300 best festivals in 2017
The Nyege Nyege Festival that often takes place in September along the great River Nile at Nile Discovery Beach was voted and listed among the World’s 300 best festivals. According to Everfest, every November fest300 staff remove 30 festivals from the list and they ask the International festival community to vote on 30 new festivals for the next year.
Nyege Nyege is a noun that literally means ‘the feeling of an uncontrollable urge to move, or dance.’ Often referred to as the festival where nature meets music, and diversity of culture, religion, and whatnot, Nyege Nyege music festival has managed to attract a number of people from allover the world for the love of music, adventure, and socializing.
The festival started in 2015, and last year was an even more epic 3 Music and arts vacation. The festival is a 3 day gate away from the hustle and bustle of town to the Nile Discovery Beach in Jinja just along the World’s greatest and longest river- River Nile.
Different countries often send their music legends to represent contemporary African Music such as; kuduros, kwaito, Afro house, hiplife, Tuareg rock, cosmic synths from Niger, Arab tech, Morrocan bass, zouk bass, soukous, balani, funana, and swhaili trap and Tigrinian blues among other genres.
“Nyege Nyege takes it’s inspiration from the legendary World Festival of the Black Arts’ that took place in Dakar Senegal in 1966. An extended invitation from Uganda to the world.”- Website
Nyege Nyege often showcases the connections between Africa and the rest of the world Afro Diaspora with Cumbia from South America, vodou jazz from Haiti and underground hip hop from America, cosmic synths from Niger, and other music fusions synonymous with the African ear.
The Live music is often complemented with acts from some of the best DJ’s in the World and from different parts of the World leaving revelers dancing to the best of African beats rhyming to the flow of the great Nile. Last year, the festival lined up over 200 artistes from around the world and the 24/7 music presentations, DJ mixes, and instrumentation left people yearning for more- We guess this is what made the festival get listed.
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