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Unsung Heroes

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 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.

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Unsung Heroes

The Soroti Cricket Academy: Transforming Young Lives Through Sport

The Soroti Cricket Academy was founded in 2014 with five pioneer cricketers and has since grown to a membership of over 500 players. Founded by Felix Musana, a Certified Public Accountant and passionate cricketer, the academy has supported over 600 young people in Eastern Uganda through cricket, education and youth empowerment programs.

How it started

“I was working in Soroti and one day while I was jogging at a public field, I saw five kids playing cricket, 4 girls and 1 boy. They did not have gear and I worried they would get hurt. They had no one to guide them but they were playing anyway. I was impressed, I could not go forward without supporting them. I got them some gear and that made a very big difference for them. That is how it began,” says Musana. “They told their friends who joined the game and within no time, the numbers had increased.”

Having gained an appreciation for the sport at an early age and playing throughout secondary and university, Musana’s passion and love for the game pushed him to start this academy along with three friends, with a dream of harnessing young people’s talent and using the game to empower them to become changemakers. He currently plays for the Soroti Blazers.

To increase its sustainability and recruit more players, the academy works with ten primary schools and six secondary schools in Soroti, Mbale and Lira. They have two professional coaches who take turns training the players in schools. So far, three clubs have been established; Soroti Challengers, Olila girls club and Soroti Blazers and are now competing on the national level.

“We try to introduce cricket at the youngest level in primary and follow through with the players up to university. The youngest players are 8 years old in primary 3.”

Whereas cricket is the backbone of the academy, Musana puts much emphasis on education and youth empowerment as well to ensure a better life for its players who are mostly from rural eastern Uganda.

“We go beyond cricket,” he says. “Most of the young people we work with come from backgrounds with parents that do not believe in education, especially for girls. We mitigate this by talking to the parents to get them an appreciation for education and the opportunities it brings. The people we work with are from rural communities with challenged backgrounds. We realized that if we do not take that extra step, they wouldn’t get much value from playing cricket because many of the players were dropping out of school due to early marriages, drug abuse, pregnancy…”

Through cricket, the academy is empowering young people in rural communities in Eastern Uganda to become change agents. They do radio shows and conduct community programs during school holidays to show how cricket and education are linked.

“While cricket may not be a long-term career, it is a means to a better life for our players. Some have gone up to university level because their tuition is being paid by their patron clubs.”

Many players have received bursaries for secondary education and some university scholarships.

“Nine of our players have gotten call ups on the national team and four have represented the country in international games in international games in South Africa, Dubai, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya and Kigali. We have 15 girls who have gotten bursaries in Olila Secondary School, 13 boys at Light SS, four boys in Mukono High School and another at Jinja S.S.”

L -R, Felix Musana (Chairman, Soroti Cricket Academy), Anyango, coach Kakande, Apio, Iloku, Anyingo, Alumo after representing Uganda U19s in Rwanda. Photos by Soroti Cricket Academy.

Challenges they face

Being a voluntary project, Soroti Cricket Academy faces a multitude of challenges, most associated with resource mobilization. Without governmental support and limited support from the cricket federation of Uganda, there are very many limitations to how much they can do.

“In the beginning, it was only about getting the players equipment, but now we have 2 permanent coaches who scout train all the teams in the schools. Paying them sufficiently and on time is a challenge.”

Because there aren’t any cricket facilities in Soroti, the games can only take place in Entebbe, Jinja and Kampala where cricket ovals are. This excludes most of the players who may not afford transport and accommodation to participate.

Working with the schools too presents a challenge as they are more focused on academic work than sports so convincing the administration to let the students participate becomes difficult. However, inspired by the young player’s talent, he does not give up.

“I am impressed whenever I visit the players and see how talented they are. That keeps me going. Every time we get a chance to play at the national level, they play at their best. The talent, commitment and hard work these young people exhibit and the success they attain keeps me going. All the accolades we win lift my spirit. I can only consider quitting when I know Soroti has a cricket oval. When teams in Kampala come to play in Soroti.”

The future for Soroti Cricket Academy

In its five years of existence, the academy has produced some of the best cricketers in Uganda at the moment such as Joyce Mary Apio, Eloku Esther, Kevin Auro, Alongat Eunice and Apollo Joseph who have received national and inter-school accolades.

“The overall goal is to make Soroti a cricket powerhouse and empower athletes to become community leaders by staying in school.” Says Musana. “Already, one of the clubs, Olila cricket club has claimed its position as one of the best in the country.”

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Africa

This Organisation is continuously tailoring projects to save the girl child and support needy women in the Community

Started a few years ago, local tailoring entrepreneur Harry Patel under his company Tengi Styles has over the years joined the helping hand supporting local communities with emphasis to the girl child and women in the rural areas of Jinja District.

This is all done under the ‘Abaana Abaidho’ Organisation that runs on the ‘Changing a life’ tagline. Through numerous tailored projects, the Foundation is changing the lives of very many young girls, and women in local communities especially in Jinja.

Apart from selling some of the best custom made ‘Bitengi’ that they also deliver in Kampala, Tengi Styles has taken up the mantle to deliver and train girls and women in hands on tailoring skills.

With this initiative, the Company and foundation have not only supported girls and women in tailoring but have also donated sewing machines to these people to enable them utilise the skills they have gained thus offering them an opportunity of earning a living through tailoring and through Tengi Styles that already has a functional client base.

Harry Patel, Founder of Tengi Styles with one of the local football teams they support

The Foundation also engages young children under the school’s kids & community gala where they come together to play soccer/football as well as giving them scholastic materials to enable them go through school smoothly.

Brian Umony Foundation donating jerseys to the Abaana Abaidho Foundation

Together with local celebrities like Maro and the Brian Umony Foundation, who inspire young people to follow their dreams and use all available resources to better their lives have changed the course of life in rural Jinja

Through the use of fashion to change the lives of the needy and to empower the local person, Abaana Abaidho Foundation is continuously looking forward to create and tailor make programs and projects to better the life of the rural and ultra-poor person.

Who is Harry Patel?

 Source: Proud to be a Musoga 

Hari Patel aka ‘Waiswa’, from Buwenge, Jinja District, is ‘Proud to be a Musoga’. Hari qualifies as a ‘true’ Musoga, having been born, schooled and still lives in Buwenge. He is fluent in spoken and written Lusoga and loves Jinja.

He is very passionate and active about Busoga and owns a local charity, Abaana Abaidho, that uses football/sport to build confidence and unite the youth, and teaches vocational skills like tailoring.

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Unsung Heroes

Disability is not inability: Meet Aisha, a blind hair dresser

In a world full of uncertainties, Malengo Foundation is a living testimony through its Girl 50 50 project that no form of adversity or discrimination is enough to keep a strong woman from achieving her goals.

Aisha Bahati speaking after getting her award

Being blind never stopped Bahati Aisha’s passion for beauty, business and style to blossom. The amazingly talented Aisha has broken barriers to run a successful hair and beauty salon in Kampala and is rising fast to rank among the stylists and fashion influencers despite being blind.

Aisha stood out as Miss Tourism Independent 2015-2016. She is also a makeup artist and cat walked for Malengo Foundation during the Hot Pink fashion show

Girl 50 50 is a Malengo Foundation Campaign mainstreaming the disability normative in gender empowerment. The project decided to honour all the vulnerable ladies who chose to thrive and didn’t let their disability to hinder them from pursuing their dreams.

Aisha was among the 6 remarkable girls and women with disabilities in various fields from Para sports to entrepreneurship that were recognized by Malengo Foundation.

Speaking during the Girl 50- 50 Forum and project launch at Mestil Hotel, Aisha shared her experiences about how blindness has impacted her life and career. The project will encompass a multitude of activities  and interventions throughout the year focusing on the girl child disability rights in an effort to mainstream gender within disability rights.

Aisha was crowned the stylist honoree of 2019 and her award was presented to her by Lady Justice Margeret Oguli Oumo.

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