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How Kakooza is changing perceptions about mental health in Uganda

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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 and had to through therapy.

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 the lack of access to health care in Uganda, I made it my life’s purpose to raise awareness around mental health 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.

Kakooza is saving many people by encouraging them to open up on mental health

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.

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, we are able to address the stigma around mental health which will have a ripple effect and open doors for our initiatives.

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.

“I have used crowd funding techniques and have 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 intends to roll-out in its long-term plan. 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 which aims to work with the army, Tumaini Woman which aims to address mental health issues prevalent among women, Tumaini Ingane which will address the onset of mental health challenges among children and Tumaini Lifeline; Which is a suicide & crisis counseling hot-line. With this we will also launch an app to enable peer-to-peer support.

“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.

At 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.

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

Unsung Heroes

This organization is building Sustainable Infrastructure for schools in Uganda

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All We Are has a mission to solarize over 50 schools in Uganda over the next 10 years. According to the organization, this can save money and ensure more young people spend more time in schools. We caught up with Nathan Thomas, the Founder & CEO for a chat.

Let’s start with the name- “All We Are”, Why did you choose that?

I was lucky to, at a very young age, discover that the best version of yourself is the person you truly are. For many of us this journey of fulfilment is one that spans a lifetime. All We Are is the hope that by living a fulfilled life we can take our talents, passions, and all that we are to help others realize their true potential. We believe that “it starts with us.”

What inspired you to start All We Are?

The belief that if you get to a certain point of your life and decide that now is the time to start giving back, you took too much. I was a 16 year high school student living in Findlay, Ohio USA who wanted to do something to change the world. I luckily found several people who believed in me. Eight year later, I lead a platform of over twenty young professionals in America who volunteer their time to our mission, and an incredible team of employees on the ground in Uganda who implement our work.

Let’s now talk about your work. What are your focus areas?

By the end of 2017 we equipped 20 schools in Uganda with electricity through the design and installation of solar power. We are scaling a women’s empowerment project to educate and provide female personal hygiene products that allows girls to remain in school. This year we have also launched a pilot water program to provide access to clean water to these partner schools.

As young change makers, All We Are’s focus is on responsibly building infrastructure for schools in Uganda. We focus on sustainability and putting money into the local economy with an emphasis on stewardship. Every member of our USA team is a volunteer and is personally investing in All We Are’s mission, which enables us to put 100% of public donations to use on the ground in Uganda. We believe that development is only successful when it is fueled locally by the communities. We work with the Rotary Club of Nateete-Kampala to conduct needs assessments for our projects. They are the face of our projects on the ground.

Nathan Thomas the Founder of All We Are during one of the outreaches in schools

And the communities, where do you work in Uganda?

We have worked in KLA and the surrounding area in the past eight years. This year we are pushing into more rural areas where there is no access to Umeme and the existing schools’ infrastructure is much weaker. We will be working in Rakai, Luuka, and Kakumiro to name a few Districts, and hope for further expansion in the near future.

At the end of the day, what are you trying to achieve?

A world in which we all have the right to dream. A world where every child receives an education because it is the young people who are the future of our countries.

What has been All We Are’s impact in Uganda so far?

We have spent the last eight years in Uganda helping build educational program in and around the Kampala area with the hope that we are having a positive impact on the schools we partner with. We have also been able to positively impact the lives of many members of the All We Are family on the ground in Kampala through job creation and by providing them with a means to support their families.

Installation of solar panels at one of the schools

Any particular impact story you can single out?

One of my favorite stories is a spotlight we did on Nambuli Rogers, Headmaster of Mackay Memorial Primary School in Kampala.  We electrified this school in 2016 and also partner with them on our women’s empowerment project. The school’s motto is, “Temudda Nnyuma” and we believe that perfectly describes the work we trying to accomplish.

With development work comes a lot of uncertainty and questioning whether the solutions we are providing are impactful. In February 2017 we were in Kampala and visited Mackay Memorial. I will never forget getting out of the bus and walking up to the HM’s office to be greeted by a big hug from HM Rogers. It is in moments like this that we remember why we do what we do.  Here is a link to the story: allweare.org/2017/06/spotlight-on-nambuli-rogers

Where do you see All We Are 5-7 years from now?

In 2015 we set an ambitious goal of electrifying 50 schools in Uganda by 2025. At the end of 2017, just two years later, we will already have 20 schools in the All We Are family. In five to seven years it is very possible that we will have realized our planned goal of 50 partner schools. As we scale our work, we will expand our women’s empowerment program and clean water initiative. We are committed to a problem not a solution. The problems we address surround  education. As we progress as an organization, and as new technologies and opportunities become a reality, we will continue to innovate and refuse to stop challenging ourselves.

Let’s talk about personal inspiration. Which people inspire you in everything you do?

It is easy to draw inspiration from people who live fearlessly. I draw inspiration from those who fear less. From my parents who moved from the comfort of friends, family, and what was normal in India to America before my brother, sister, and I were born. To members of the All We Are team who are so passionate, and so willing, to go far beyond what society deems “millennial engagement” to be.

If someone wants to get involved in All We Are, how do they get in touch with you?

We are always looking to engage with like-minded individuals who want to be a part of the global conversation on change. Take a look at our website at www.allweare.org and our social media platforms. If what we are doing interests you, send me an email at nathan@allweare.org. Remember that the best way to start is by simply getting started.

Any last words or piece of advice to someone doing a similar initiative like you?

Share stories of success with your networks and ensure that you do so with cultural sensitivity. At All We Are we gravitate towards empowerment versus charity. You will not find images that exploit the dignity of the communities we serve, or “voluntourism” opportunities. Instead you will find a group of young people dedicated to positive change that is tangible. The key to achieving this is patience. Take the time to develop a solid foundation for your work.

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

 

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Unsung Heroes

How Kakoma Is Creating A Generation Of Book Readers Right From The Grass Roots

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Nyana Kakoma is the founder of Sooo Many Stories, a publishing house and online platform which allows Ugandan writers to express their creativity. To date, Sooo Many Stories has published two books: The Headline That Morning and Other Stories by Peter Kagayi and Flame and Song by Philippa Namutebi, along with several other short stories.

The blog she started in 2014 with the support of her husband has now morphed into a publishing house with a dedicated staff of four, and a wealth of Ugandan literal content in short stories, poems and book reviews.

After several years in the journalism and communications industry, Nyana quit her job and dedicated herself to creating this space that would show be home to Ugandan writers and an outlet for so many stories.

Nana leading a tot session. (Photo credit: Sooo Many Stories)

Her inspiration to start the blog was rooted in the fact that not many people knew about Ugandan literature. While an editor for the in-house Magazine and other publications at Madhivani group, she horned her writing skills and got to interact with other people in the African literary space.

“it was during this time that I started travelling for workshops outside Uganda and people were talking about publishers… writers and editors in their countries, but there were not so many from Uganda… I started getting a hunger for a platform that would talk about Ugandan writers.” she says.

When she took the plunge into the publishing world, she attended several trainings and an editorial internship with Modjaji books in Cape town where she learnt from the extra ordinary Colleen Higgs, who still remains one of her biggest influences alongside Ella Alfrey, Jennifer Makumbi and Goretti Kyomuhendo (Founder of African Writers Trust). Through this internship, she learnt the ins and outs of publishing and got the necessary tools and motivation to expand her blog into a publishing for Ugandan literature.

Peter Kagayi, a poet, facilitating a session. (Photo credit: Sooo Many Stories)

“I wanted people to take me seriously, to take the blog seriously… I was doing this for real, not as a part time job. That meant that I  put in a lot. I would do interviews, book reviews and attend all these events. No one was paying me but the sheer joy of doing what I love made it worth it.” Nyana explains.

Sooo Many Stories has taken on the responsibility of cultivating a reading culture in Uganda through book clubs for adults, teenagers and children. The Fireplace: Tot tales  is where children from the ages of 4 to 12 gather to read books. Divided into groups of 4 – 6, 7 – 9 and 10 – 12 years, these books clubs see up to 45 children at every session.

These sessions are held in Ntinda at the Innovation Village and in Bugolobi. Two more chapters will be opened next year in Muyenga and Entebbe. This initiative has gone a long way in nurturing a keen interest in books both for children and adults.

“People throw around the phrase “reading culture is Uganda so bad” but you don’t know how quite terrible it is that is until you try to sell a book, until you try to convince someone to buy a book. It was terrible, we started thinking… So we decided to start book clubs, which are called fireplaces… To boost the reading culture, it has to be done from the grass roots. If we are to promote Ugandan literature, it has to be through a holistic approach by making books available for children to read.” She says.

The team at Sooo Many Stories. (Photo Credit: Sooo Many Stories)

This brilliant concept has had visible transformational effect on the children.

“The book clubs have created an explosion of reading. We’ve seen results… We’ve seen parents say “watch out for my kid he doesn’t talk to anyone” but that kid will be the first one to speak when we ask for volunteers to read. We’ve seen parents tell us that my kid is interested in books now. We are approaching reading from a fun side showing these kids that books are fun. They don’t have to be academic.” Nana explains.

Nyana envisions a time in Uganda when reading will become a thing. For people to stay in doors on weekends just to read without having people ask “Do you have a paper?” With the state of the economy, buying a book may not necessarily be a priority like soap and food but just like food, when you do not read you die too. It may not be a physical death, but lack of knowledge kills.

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Unsung Heroes

This organisation is sensitizing communities living around the chimpanzee corridors on how to coexist together

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Guest post by David Kangye*

In 1990, four chimpanzees; Sunday, Masiko, Jim and Megan were sent from Uganda to Moscow to become local zoo residents only to be hijacked and taken to Hungary. The Jane Goodall Institute-UK rescued them saw to their return to Uganda. Back home, they needed expert help in resettlement.

Through the establishment of the Jane Goodall Institute, the chimpanzees were habituated at Isinga Island Sanctuary. Over the years, this organization has worked with the government and other organizations to promote the conservation of forests and animals that therein stay with a keen interest in chimpanzees.

Today, the organization has offices in over 19 countries, 12 of them being in Africa. In Uganda, the organization has spread widely covering districts in the Albertine Rift. It is in these districts that the chimpanzee corridor lies.

The institute has awareness programs that empowers people in communities on how to coexist

JGI’s main concern has been to sensitize the communities living around the chimpanzee corridors on how to coexist together. The chimpanzee population had drastically fallen due to man’s activities that encroached on their habitat. The leading of all being deforestation. JGI came in and persuaded the locals to take on other economic activities other than relying on the forest for survival.

For example, instead of honey harvesting from the forest, the organization trains the farmers on how bee keeping within their communities for commercial purposes. One of such projects is in the Budongo community in a place called Kapeeka where 40 farmers have formed a cooperative through which they sell honey.

The chimpanzee population had drastically fallen due to man’s activities that encroached on their habitat until the Institute came to the rescue.

Through the Roots and Shoots program that is mainly run in schools, children are taught of the benefits of conservation. Girls are encouraged and equipped to stay in school. Women in communities are taught how to build energy saving stoves other than having to rely on firewood from the forests.

Snare trap wires are used as designs on card covers which are sold off to tourists. A number of people have taken to running nursery beds. The trees are sold off to other farmers to plant their own forests.

27 years later, JGI has a story to tell. The story of conservation is no longer about Jane Goodall, it is about the residents of these communities. The story is about restoration of chimpanzees that were once threatened with extinction. The story today is about men and women interested in planting their own forests on their land.

The children today and those yet to be born are in a better place. A place where their future which was once robbed of them having it returned. They too will get a chance to see chimpanzees. They too will get a chance to see and appreciate the power and beauty of having a forest.

Jane Goodall, the founder of the Institute

This year, Jane Goodall turns 84. She has not stopped going around the world talking about chimpanzee conservation. She will be in Uganda at a symposium speaking of the same on 8th June 2018.

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