I've had to get over some deeply held and quite ridiculous British embarrassment about trying to raise money for charity, despite having a lot of admiration for others that do it regularly!
But I'm here now, and things are obviously so much easier to absorb in the stark day to day than in the abstract. I'm working on the relatively new (5 years old) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Ward here at Butabika, Uganda's largest psychiatric hospital. It is the largest and one of the only inpatient wards for children with mental illness in the whole country. Before the ward begun, children were treated alongside adults. These children are also not only there because they may have a mental illness, the ward becomes a literal dumping ground for children who have been abused, abandoned, bereaved, stigmatised and significantly traumatised. Often they have nowhere else to go, and they have families that are untraceable. We have to estimate their ages a lot of the time because we simply don't have the information when police sometimes bring them in.
I'm here to help teach a diploma in child psyhciatry to health workers from all over the country. Epilepsy is still misunderstood here and many children still die as a result of seeking treatment too late. There is also a reliance on medication here, you often see children lying in bed or outside all day, overly sedated.
Uganda has the world's youngest population, over 52% are under 15 years old. Life outcomes for children in mental health everywhere can be signifcantly poorer than the rest, but here it is a different story alltogether. The staff and hospital do all they can in an incredibly demanding, under staffed and under resourced hospital. They have a tremendous and dedicated workforce, and this fundraising is not intended to raise funds for the equipment covered by the hospital, but to be able to in some small way, improve the experience for those young people who end up here. Some have been here for over three years.
There is a simple list of things I've come up with, with advice that i want to try and implement alongside the other work i'm doing. I want to:
Hire a local who can utilise loads of the land to dig a vegetable garden, the kids learn skills, they grow seasonal produce, they eat better
Buy a load of blank name tags and permanent markers, so that those who stay for a long time have their own uniform, cup, plate etc, to raise the sense of dignity a wee bit
Buy a load of new toys and sports equipment - a basketball hoop that works, a pump, a net you can string up in the massive garden and sports equipment. Most of the children are not as active as they could be all day
A laminator, to preserve the kids pictures and the safety cards and medication charts we are making
A few big boards to hang pictures on and brighten the ward environment
A whiteboard, so we can organise the nursing shifts each day and everyone has a focal point to look at for what needs doing for the day
Educational books catering for all ages as so many miss school here
More equipment for the sensory room for the children with complex disabilities who might not be able to talk
Some additional medical equipment (cheap and sustainable) such as tempadots, disposable aprons, hand sanitsers in the bucketload, more gloves
The video I added is a BBC film made at the Hospital. It is not specifically about children but gives a good insight into the state of mental health here, and I did some follow up filming with the contributors for World Mental Health Day.
Everything I raise will go towards trying to make the expereince of life on the ward as useful and nurturing as possible for these children. That's it really. Paypal frustratingly not a go to in Uganda so sorry bout that. xxxx