WACIT Uganda: The two-level training finally arrived

Introducing different levels of training for different service layers is relatively new  in child mental health anyway. When available, these training levels are separate or, at best, parallel. Sometimes having no training precedent paradoxically eases innovation.

All that had been missing was a team to operate on the interface, which is what the Children on the Edge team did, with their primary focus on child protection in disadvantaged communities, and gradually expanding in therapeutic areas. In that respect, the first child trauma workshop was not that different to previous variations. 

It became particularly exciting at the end of that workshop when we reflected what would be relevant – and crucially, how – for the community child protection volunteers. When they came for the second child trauma workshop, they expressed their own expectations and fears, but we went through the day seamlessly. Using their own material helped, and me taking the back seat for the COTE leads to facilitate was even more gratifying.

The next challenge is to build on both levels without losing their integration.

“How would you engage parents?” “I would watch their non-verbals” – An amazing group of child protection volunteers from Uganda slum communities

There is so much to advocate for this advanced child protection model by Children on The Edge and the community volunteers. They come from the most deprived communities and their first task was to educate against child sacrifice – this is how far they have gone, to be in a position to train on preventive and resilience-building strategies.

They were proud of their achievements, thoughtful and reflective. But this was the best answer that you do not often get from highly qualified professionals. Having to deal with the most difficult to engage parents, they gave good examples of prioritising rapport and trust building. Adjusting strategies according to how parents appear in their interaction was not what I expected – intuition, natural wisdom, call it what you like…

WACIT Uganda: Safety brings new challenges in the slums

One would expect young children starting pre- or primary school to be anxious or reluctant to attend at the beginning. Yet, as in a similar context in the Karachi slums, there were the opposite stories of children feeling safer with their teacher and not wanting to go home – the paradox being the teacher taking them rather than the other way round.

This is the huge achievement of the Early Child Development Centre and Children on The Edge, but also the next challenge of generating change amidst overwhelming needs and disadvantage. This is the only way to build resilience, whatever the barriers: routines in healthy eating, routines, learning and social interactions, as opposed to lack of sanitation and sometimes abandonment…

WACIT Uganda: Early intervention in the face of slum adversity

Starting with child protection in pretty challenging circumstances, it is amazing what Children On The Edge have achieved in a short period. Children’s social interaction at the Early Child Development Centre was one of several indications.

Considering their lack of life structure, exposure to violence and transitional circumstances as the families could be evicted and have to move at any time, they followed structure and routines, learned and played as in any other pre-school. Their latest game was making fun of their visitor’s glasses!

WACIT Uganda: Refugee graduates did their duty to the children – how about ours?

The potential of the refugee graduates was exciting to see at the workshop two months ago. But this was in sharp contrast with the loving conditions, as we had to find money for water and basic materials.

Still, since then they have kept their word to develop school holidays activities for the children in the large refugee settlement, with the aim of extending to school and community awareness in the future, and to strengthen the cultural integration of several groups.

Our admiration goes to them, shame to hear they did not have money for even drinks for the children…​

WACIT Bangladesh: When there is genuine community engagement, there are no health taboos

The first good sign was hearing about the large number of community volunteers at this network of rural health centres and satellite clinics. The second and real test was hearing from the mothers on their perceived benefits through education and prevention, and how they would advise future mothers.

When I saw evidence of including not insensitive topics such as family planning and particularly gender-based violence, I was not surprised. If trust between the community and services is built over a number of years, with community leads and volunteers acting as bridges, there are no taboos to avoid. Mental health should come easy next!

The three young children in the waiting area also passed the secure attachment test – none of them would come to me!