Another person released

Samuel (not his real name) was first brought by his mother to one of our monthly village meeting points some distance from Bwindi hospital. He was shackled on both hands and legs. His mother reported that he had been sick for 4 years presenting with aggression and violence, talking to himself and adopting unusual positions. He also had beliefs about being persecuted or threatened in some way. His relatives had chained him as they were afraid that he would destroy property and harm the people around him.

When we assessed him, we diagnosed schizophrenia, a serious mental illness. He was given antipsychotic medication in the form of tablets.

On our next visit, a month later, he came in with his mother, but this time he was free from his shackles. His mother said that he had started participating in some everyday activities at home including going with his parents to the land where the family grow their food. When we examined him again his state of mental health and wellbeing had improved markedly, and he was functioning well. He is continuing on treatment.

“mhGAP” Training the Trainers course recently completed

The participants with Joshua Ssebunnya in the centre

We are delighted that Jamie’s Fund has been able to sponsor a course at Butabika National Hospital in Kampala from the 20thto 24thAugust 2018 to train trainers to teach the WHO “mental health GAP” programme.  This approach enables clinical staff who are not specialists in mental health to be more aware of the importance of mental illness, how to identify it and begin treatment for individual patients who come to their general clinics.

We were encouraged by the enthusiasm of psychiatric staff from across Uganda who attended.  They came from nine different hospitals. We work with Kisiizi, Bwindi and Kagando, but have only just become aware that the other six each have one or two specialist mental health staff or are hoping to develop their services.

One of the outcomes of the training was that the participants have set up a mental health staff support network, as some of them are working in relative isolation. This gives us the possibility of providing further postgraduate training for them as a professional group.

The training was expertly organised and run by Joshua Ssebunnya, a clinic psychologist working at Butabika and Makerere University who has a lot of relevant experience.

Being awarded her certificate.

Meeting James, Rahab and Gorrette.

Some people might remember that in November 2016 we first met James, chained in the darkness of his hut in the Ruwenzori Hills for 15 years. On treatment, he has made a wonderful recovery so that in May last year he and I had a lovely conversation in the sunshine. On this return visit – a long trip up into those hills again, stopping off to do a clinic at a health centre on the way – we found him happily playing cards with his brother. He was relaxed, cheerful, engaged, and totally accepting of the group of white visitors who crowded into the small room to meet him.

We also went to see Rahab again. Her  house is down a very steep slope and it was raining hard! She had been known as someone whose mental illness made her very violent and destructive and was chained for a similar length of time to James.

Ewan found me a slightly less skiddy slope and we slid down towards the valley and then clambered up to Rahab’s house. Our team has successfully formed a therapeutic alliance and she too has been on treatment. Here we found an elegant woman looking well-nourished, free of her chain, beautifully dressed and ready to talk quietly about herself and her future. And do you know, she even had nail polish on her fingers and toes. Another life transformed from darkness to light, from imprisonment to freedom.

Gorrette

We found Rahab as soon as the word was out about James. This time, another new patient awaited us, her restlessness held firmly under control by her father. Skinny, malnourished, unkempt, overtalkative and thought disordered, Gorette too has a serious mental illness and will need the team to come alongside to work with her and her family so that she can receive treatment.

A joyous day!

Today (20th Feb 2018) was a joyous day for many reasons.

Several years ago I (Maureen) met Francis, who was shackled at home because his family and the village were too frightened by his mental illness to allow him any freedom. Not long afterwards he succeeded in killing himself. Today we met his son, who had been in prison for three years with no treatment for his mental illness and was beaten most days. Julius has been at home now for 2 years and has been cared for by the mental health team from Kisiizi, with monthly injections for his mental illness.

Grandma, Nancy & the cabbage

For the first time he is free from symptoms. He no longer hears the tormenting voices, is clean and well nourished. He still wears his shackles but the family are so thrilled by his progress that they are almost ready to remove them. Today was the first time that Sister Nancy has seen Julius smiling, and his grandmother smiled the whole time we were there. As we left, Grandma plunged into the vegetable patch, seized a cabbage, and ceremonially presented it to Nancy, still smiling.

We climbed up a steep goat track in another village to meet a young man whose wrists were still shackled but not locked together. When ill, Richard is very destructive – he managed to completely destroy his mother’s house on one occasion. Now, with treatment from the team, he is well and able to work in the family fields, playing his proper part in family life for the first time.

Not far away a local teacher discovered that Bruce, a mentally ill man in his early twenties, was shackled and left bound hand and foot in a banana plantation, where he was unwashed and uncared for, half naked, with no toilet facilities, and barely fed. The teacher alerted our team, treatment was begun, and we met a transformed young man, clothed and in his right mind.

An update on James at Kagando

In November 2016 Dr Maureen Wilkinson went with staff from Kagando hospital, to meet James, a young man with a long term mental health condition that had remained untreated for a number of years.  Maureen was able to make a diagnosis for James and treatment was begun.

In October, 2017 Hugh Burgess and John Taylor (respectively the Chair and Treasurer of Jamie’s Fund) were privileged to meet James at his home.  They are delighted to report that James has continued to make good progress thanks to regular treatment given by Kagando Hospital with the on-going support of Jamie’s Fund.

Here is James (seated) with three members of the team from Kagando hospital outside his home, the wattle and daub house at the rear of the picture.  His home is very simple and has the corrugated iron roof that is very common in Uganda.  The straw on the roof helps to keep the temperature inside down at a reasonable level (and the noise down when it rains!)

For many years James had had to be restrained and so it was wonderful for John and Hugh to see him now walking free and able to take an active part in the consultation with the medical team.  Having seen this work at first hand, Hugh and John are very pleased that a few thousand pounds provided by Jamies Fund is able to make such a significant difference in the life of James and others who would otherwise have very little hope.

We are delighted to be partnering with Kagando Hospital in this work.

A Long Walk for Jamie

Hugh Burgess, Chair of Jamie’s Fund is taking three months away from his role as Priest in Charge of the Halkyn Mountain Parishes in North Wales to walk the 1500 miles to Santiago in Northern Spain, starting at the end of February 2016.  He is also raising money for Jamie’s Fund while he walks.

You can read more about Hugh’s trip here in a very supportive article from “The Leader” and you can follow his blog to see how he is coping with sun and mud now he is into France, having walked from Halkyn to Southampton.MyDonateQRCode

You can also donate to Hugh’s “MyDonate” page in aid of Jamies Fund here OR copy the QR code below – please feel free to make it widely available!

Let The Building Commence!

The contract for the construction of the new mental health centre at Kisiizi was signed on the 15th January, 2016 and a ceremony to mark the groundbreaking is planned for early February.  We’ll post photos as soon as we have them.

The contractor is an experienced builder with good references, based only about 25 miles away from the hospital. This means that much of the money will go into the local economy, which is what we have always hoped would happen.

The builder was selected from a short list of 4 contractors by the management consultants in Kampala we are using, Aclaim Africa, and representatives from the Senior Management Team at Kisiizi Hospital. A thorough selection process was used to ensure the company had the necessary skills, experience, finances, and evidence of completion of good building on time.

The contractor has draw up a project plan which means that work should start on site at the end of January (subject to the weather, of course).   Initial work will involve organising the site and putting in an access track to avoid having to bring all the materials through the middle of the hospital, with the associated noise and dust.

According to the project timetable, the building should take 6 months to complete, but, as with any building project, there may be some delays along the way, but we are looking forward to the formal handover of the new unit sometime in the third quarter of 2016.

We Still Need Your Help!

Although there is great progress towards completing the building of the new Mental Health Unit at Kisiizi we still need your help to ensure that the building is completed and fitted out to the highest standard, so please don’t stop your fundraising efforts!

It has taken longer to get to this point than we had hoped but a lot of people have worked very hard to get the project to this point and we are in the most exciting phase.  Once the building is complete, mental health patients and their families can receive even more support from the great team at Kisiizi.

You can donate very easily on-line by clicking here… and please don’t forget to Gift Aid your donation if you can – it costs you nothing and significantly increases the funds Jamie’s Fund receives.

Thank you!

Four hundred miles by bike from Entebbe to Kigali

We set off from the guest house in Entebbe, Uganda in the cool of the morning and dropped down to the shores of Lake Victoria. Our bikes were loaded into a small boat and we puttered across the bay. We reassembled the bikes and panniers and set off down the dirt road on our journey to Kigali.

There were three of us, me from UK and two Ugandan friends. Bosco, a driver and Isaac, a computer science student and Scuba instructor.

Avoiding the busiest, dangerous roads and using a mixture of dirt and tar roads we wove our way south west across Uganda. Some of the dirt roads were hard going, rough with loose grit on top and with the occasionally steep hill. But we saw so much of rural life, away from tourist routes. Countless children were excited to see a “mzungu”, a white person, cycle past. We could hear the birdsong and identify a number of the calls.

Cycling4Most of the tar roads were good, many with a meter wide shoulder for cyclists and pedestrians, making us feel safer from the occasional bus roaring past.

A rest day with some bike maintenance then we headed out on the last lap. First a gradual climb up a valley leading to a stiff climb at the head to get over the ridge. On to the Rwandan border and then a steady climb of three thousand feet to reach our resting place.

We relished a glorious twenty mile descent the next morning, with views over the valleys at first and then becoming more restricted as we got lower. There were a number of men on bikes with 40 litres of milk on the carrier heading to Kigali. We kept pace with some of them for a while, they were faster on the descents than we were, with their greater weight, and we would overtake on the more level bits, where our gearing made the difference.

Cycling2And then we turned a corner and there was a group of multi-storey buildings on a hill top in the distance. Kigali, our destination. Eight miles later we were there and we celebrated with a banana split, as nothing like that had been available en route.

403 miles, no punctures, no hassles or security problems and a chance to see rural Africa in a way that allows genuine contact.