KAMPALA – No Limit Generation, a DC-based non-profit organization, has partnered with Child’s i Foundation in Uganda to develop and launch the first online training series to address issues affecting young adults with lived experience in institutional care (care leavers).
“Breaking the Cycle” is the first of its kind youth-led, accessible video series, and guidebook designed to identify, address, and treat mental health conditions in children and youth leaving institutional care in Uganda and the broader region. It is designed to provide families, social workers, and youth-serving organizations, including students of social services at Makerere University.
Ms. Atim Grace, a Counselling Psychologist says an orphanage is a serious risk factor for the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people because upon leaving institutions, young people get little or no support to transition to family life or Independent living.
As a result, Atim says they experience poorer health outcomes than their peers.
“Young people who have grown up in orphanages undergo a lot of trauma and when they are left to go out, this trauma gives birth to other mental health challenges that they have to deal with on their own,” she told the press on Thursday at Child’s i Foundation head offices in Muyenga, Kampala.
“While in orphanages, children face challenges that they cannot openly discuss and this leads to emotional abuse. This affects their sense of belonging and self-esteem; this is the root cause of depression,” she said.
Atim says that the transition of these young people back to the community is another shocker.
She said that without support, they are at heightened risk of sexual exploitation, more likely to engage in crime, experience homelessness and commit suicide.
With a grant from Grand Challenges Canada, Child’s i Foundation in partnership with No Limit Generation has trained 117 wellbeing champions who have also trained 1170 youth.
Also, 10 wellbeing committees have been formed, 80 social workers trained on trauma-informed approaches and 132 young people with lived experience of care provided with knowledge.
Over 80 years of evidence indicates that orphanages are damaging to children and a poor investment for children and communities. Global estimates suggest that nearly 6 million children in orphanages across the world: 50,000 of them in Uganda 80-90 % of these children have families that they are separated from due to poverty and an inability to provide the medical, educational, and social services that the child needs
Care experienced youth have very few life skills and struggle to assimilate into a life outside of care and generally lack the knowledge of how to properly manage their mental health conditions. They are far more likely to have experienced abuse, cruelty, or neglect in an orphanage than in any other setting. In Uganda, less than 1% of the national health budget is allocated to mental health Community-based mental health services, where available, are largely inaccessible and under-resourced.
“What makes this project so unique is that it was developed from the ground up by the affected youth. They informed us of the very specific challenges they faced growing up in institutionalized care, and the kind of care they wished they had received. We developed the curriculum around their needs and around their lived experience,” notes Samier Mansur, founder of No Limit Generation.
Chris Muwanguzi CEO of Child’s i Foundation added, “Not only did care experienced youth help develop the curriculum, their stories, and their hope is captured respectfully and informatively throughout the training experience. The result is a tailored training series and guidebook that is a truly effective and special contribution for Uganda, and the field.”
Ms. Susan Ajok, Child’s i Foundation Country Director said that over the years they have worked with people who have grown up in the orphanages and supported them to reintegrate in home-based care and have realized that the whole experience of growing up in orphanages has an impact on their lives.
She said that the project is doing a lot from the experiences of young people who have left care and now are in communities.
“They tell us the stories of what life is like outside an orphanage and many of the challenges that they go through in life.”
“One of the things we have pursued is to try and see and document these experiences into something that actors can use in their work to address mental wellbeing, particularly the young people who have left homes.”
These training videos, Ms. Ajok says will address the gap in integrated mental health and well-being support for children at risk and vulnerable youth. It focuses on trauma and stress; depression and suicidal ideation, anxiety, and loss and grief.
“They will be used to initially train 80 youth-serving professionals, including students of social services at Makerere University, and will reach approximately 1,700 care leavers and vulnerable youth. This project will also serve as a pilot for broadening the impact of digital training resources nation, and region-wide.”