Sophie and Jennifer have completed their first week in Uganda! They've been volunteering in Kampala as part of Blue Sky's initiative to share social work skills with the Childs I Foundation. So far, their African adventure has bought them into the homes of struggling mothers and Ugandan Foster Carers. Read on to hear their journey so far...
WEEK ONE -
So, my aspiration to write a journal every day quickly subsided after our first day at work! It is now Friday and Sophie and I have completed our first week with Child’s i Foundation (CiF). It has already been such an enriching journey in just a few days.
On Monday we met with each of the different teams at the CiF office headquarters. The agency is much bigger than I had anticipated, there’s lots of different projects with different funding streams and different teams. CiF has two main projects which are; Keeping Children Healthy and Protected in Family (KCHPF) and No Child Left Behind. The whole organisation is working together to promote de-institutionalization. Its social work teams either seeking to prevent children from coming into orphanages by supporting the families who are struggling to cope, or working to reunite children who are living in institutions with their families. The other part of the project works to find fostering and adoption options.
After our busy few days getting to know more about CiF, we started to prepare our training for the Foster Carers and make tweaks to our original presentation as we now knew our audience better. On our first day at work we went up the road from the office for our lunch in search of another Rolex; we have grown so fond of this snack that I have been Googling to see if anywhere in London might make them, but with no avail! I think I might start a Rolex business when I return, but I need a Ugandan to show me how to make them properly!!
On our second day with CiF we were taken to visit a young mother who has been assessed as needing support through the strengthening family’s program. She was living in a very impoverished slum area with only a small room to house herself, her husband and four children. Her home was ill equipped, with a broken roof and no running water, only two small single beds and no electricity. It was a difficult visit, as we listened to the Social Worker explain her situation, she began to cry. It was hard to sit and not have a relationship or the language to support her in her grief. We felt quite powerless asking questions and hearing how desperate her situation is. Afterwards we spoke with her Social Worker, Rosaleen, who explained that she is going to support this mother to get help, and will put in a proposal to set her up with a business selling plantain, which is something she has some experience of. This will hopefully enable her to sustain the family.
The highlight of this week has been meeting with the Ugandan Foster Carers. Child’s i Foundation is pioneering in being the first agency to establish a fostering service in Uganda. It’s a real privilege to be part of the beginnings of the service and meet with the entire population of Foster Carers in Kampala, of which there are six! CiF is seeking to recruit new carers but the process is slow and the government have not agreed to fund the payment of Foster Carers, so trying to promote the work without the incentive of an income is very difficult.
Sophie and I spent the day with a group of six foster carers and three staff, hosted in the home of Harriet who has been fostering for CiF for the last three years. Most of the carers here in Kampala are looking after babies who are going to be adopted and so the eldest of the foster children was only four years old. We provided training on Participation, which aims to involve foster children in independence building activities and making decisions that affect them. It was interesting as the culture in Uganda is similar to our traditional values of children being brought up. We touched on the British notion of children being seen and not heard and although Uganda has not got such a ridged history of parenting, there is a sense that the voice of the child and children being consulted within the family is a relatively new concept. It engaged me to remember that in our own country, smacking children has only just been banned and some of the mothers here talked about how there are many Ugandans, like the many British, who still believe that a child needs physical punishment to learn right from wrong. One of the staff members talked about how the bible preaches; spare the rod and spoil the child. And so much of our discussion was based around how we can give children choice and support them to have a voice while maintaining boundaries and asserting the position of parental authority.
One of the women who we met during our day with the Foster Carers, was a true inspiration and a great help as translator for the training. Her name is Lydia, she is a grandmother and currently works for CiF supporting Foster Carers in the community of Kampala. Her story was so interesting, as well as being a mother to three children, she fostered two deaf boys of school age and also took in a mother and baby off the streets. She was telling us that the mother has HIV and the baby was malnourished, so she has taken them into her home and is caring for them both and supporting the mother to feed her baby. Lydia quickly became our new hero and has a captivating spirit which draws you in with laughter.
All in all week one has gone well, although fairly exhausting. Acclimatising to a new culture, new job and new country in a week was a bigger task than we expected and so we did not venture out until Thursday evening where we enjoyed a delicious Chinese meal on recommendation from Louise. Mobile phones have been fairly dysfunctional for most of the trip, between us we have six phones and yet none of them work effectively to perform all the tasks that we need for one reason or another!
This weekend we are both looking forward to a few days free time, Sophie is to explore the beautiful Murchison waterfalls and go on a three day Safari. I am going to venture into Kampala to visit some markets and go dancing, as well as visit the Entebbe botanical gardens and have a day at the swimming pool!
Until next time…. x