We hear first-hand about the ways our mental health work (being provided by Network for Africa and our Partners) makes a difference. These are the testimonies of participants in our current mental health projects in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda. They have all given their permission to share their testimonies on our website.
Rwanda – Testimonies from our Counselling Project for Survivors of the 1994 Genocide
A 26-year-old woman: I was only one month old when the genocide began, and in the chaos I was separated from my mother. When I was older, I searched for her, but when I found her, it was difficult to accept her as my parent, after so long apart. I spent years feeling hopeless, lonely, and unable to trust others. I slept only a few hours each night, and made several attempts at suicide. But since joining our counselling group, I’ve risen to become a Peer Support Counsellor. This responsibility has changed my life. Now, I like talking to people. I am happily married with a family of my own. I am optimistic and sleep well.
A 28-year-old man: My mother was killed during the genocide and I was left with my father, who soon remarried. I suffered from nightmares, intense anxiety, and the grief of losing my mother. Being part of the counselling group has helped me make friends and regain a sense of meaning in my life. My Peer Support Counsellor has visited me at home, helping me resolve the conflicts with my stepmother. With the counsellors’ support, I understand that anger and sorrow only hold me back. I’m now in a better mental state, capable of making the most of life. I’ve learned relaxation techniques that I use to improve my sleep and overcome nightmares. Before, I was lonely and had no friends. But now, in this counselling group, I feel loved and cared for my other people. I’ve learned that anger only damages my future and prevents me moving forward. And I’ve forgiven my stepmother. Now, I’m planning to get married and start a family of my own.
Sierra Leone – Testimonies from our Life-Changing Mental Health Support Project
A 51-year-old man: I lost my wife and four children during the Ebola crisis in 2014, and at first my relatives were sympathetic. Yet, I started to feel life was pointless. After a while, my uncle asked me for rent for the room I was occupying in his house, but I had no money. I had to go and live in a farm hut, earning my living by helping people to carry loads; people who knew me laughed at me and called me all sorts of names. I had very little hope, and thought that I would not survive. But one of my customers advised me to visit Kabantama and ask for a Conforti counsellor. I have spoken to this counsellor many times, and he’s encouraged me to begin to think positively. Now, I believe I can make it, despite my sad past. I’m part of a self-help group, and I’m an enthusiastic advocate for the establishment of a group savings scheme. I still struggle to make ends meet, but it’s different now because I feel supported and less stigmatised by my community.
A 45-year-old woman: I lost all my relatives during the war, including my four children and husband. They were accused of collaborating with government soldiers and they were gunned down before my eyes. When she first met the Conforti counsellor, she admitted she felt hopeless. But after I was counselled, I sat down and compared myself to the people around me who had lost arms and feet, and I saw that if they could continue to hope, then so could I. Now, I’m a member of the self help group and I sell pounded cassava. Whenever I hear about war happening in other place, I pray that Sierra Leone won’t have another war.
A 16-year-old child: I became an orphan in 2015 when I lost my parents to Ebola. I was an only child, so I went to live with my uncle. However, he’s unemployed and there’s no money, so I‘ve missed school for the last two years. The loss of my parents and my chance to be educated has made me sad. Thank goodness a social worker told me to go to see Conforti. Since meeting the counsellors, I feel much better and really hopeful. Talking to a female counsellor has made a difference in my life. I’m now in a self help group, and Conforti’s counsellors are encouraging my uncle to support me.
Uganda – Testimonies from our Community Mental Health Matters Project in Kalongo, Agago District
A 63-year-old man: I’ve been suffering from mental illness for about a year, with no treatment or proper care from my family. They kept me locked inside the house with no clothes, and I ate alone. I wasn’t able to take part in community life because of the fear I might destroy people’s property. Everything changed when one of the BNUU Mental Health Counsellors was doing a Community Education Session nearby. One of the Village Health Team told them about me. They enrolled me in their group and started treatment. After eight months, I started feeling better, and I was able to go out into the community again. I became part of my family once more. I’m continuing to see the counsellor to make sure I continue to make progress.
A 49-year-old woman: I’m a widow. I have four children of my own and I take care of three grandchildren from my daughter who died. There’s been a lot of grief in our family, a lot of loss. I’ve also got a chronic illness, and I had to stay in hospital for almost three months. I didn’t have any energy, I lost my appetite, and I couldn’t sleep. I was irritable and in pain, so I started avoiding other people. I was in a bad way, but then I heard about BNUU, and I decided to try their programme. They gave me psycho-education, counselling and home visits. They supported me as I worked my way through the grieving process. Through BNUU I’ve also connected to a new social network where we share ideas, and I’ve learned coping strategies. They’ve enriched my knowledge by teaching me about my human rights and how to advocate for what I need. Now, I’m enjoying leading a normal life, and I’ve got more energy. I’m not moody anymore, and people tell me I look happy. I’m proud to be the chairperson of our self help group.
Uganda – Testimonies from our Livelihood Support For People with Mental Health Issues, Agago District
Testimonies to follow.
A selection of older testimonies from the beneficiaries of our Patongo Community Counselling project is available below as a PDF.