A Stirring Tale Of Courage and Restoration Of Hope
In 2018, Alice Chandia Kenyi’s life almost came to halt. The 40-year-old mother of five did not have her own source of livelihood and depended mostly on the income that her husband earned as a civil servant (teacher in Adjumani). When her husband was jailed on allegations of corruption, the family’s source of income was cut off. Kenyi, who mostly lived on providing unpaid care work for the family, turned to her parents for support but that same year, they also lost their jobs. Left with no means of survival for her household of five children and several other dependents, the tragic set of events twisted Alice’s life from agony to trauma and into mental and psychological distress.
“I wanted to be alone because there was nothing left for me and my children. No one wanted to associate with me or even give a helping hand”, Kenyi narrates the genesis of her psychological distress. With such a huge burden, Kenyi suffered insomnia, withdrawal from those around her including her children and lost interest in things she previously enjoyed.
Kenyi lives in Mgbere village, Adjumani Town council, Adjumani District which is a refugee hosting community. As of December 2022, Terego district hosts about 13.2% of the total refugee population in Uganda. Uganda’s refugee policy necessitates that when providing services to refugees, this should also be extended to 30% of the members from the host communities. Through this, Kenyi and other members of the host community are able to receive the much-needed services since refugee hosting districts are also among the poorest districts in Uganda.
In 2021, UN Women with funding from the Government of Japan partnered with Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Uganda to provide mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services to refugees and members of the host community in Terego and Adjumani districts. A total of 952 (914 female and 38 male) including Kenyi benefitted from these services.
“I attended the psychoeducation sessions and felt safe to open up about my challenges. TPO Uganda staff visited me at home and counselled me. That is when my recovery journey started,” said Kenyi with a ray of hope on her face.
TPO utilises the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) modality where participants receive therapy in groups of 12 people and under go up to 10 sessions. Kenyi was enrolled into a CBT group where she received counselling, therapy and training on positive coping mechanisms and life skills. Upon completion of the sessions, participants also gain livelihood and entrepreneurship skills and are supported with start-up capital to enable them engage in income generating activities.
Kenyi is a member of Amaalu (translated as ‘we are one’) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Group, which received start-up capital of Ushs900,000 (USD 244). In January 2022, Kenyi accessed a loan of Ugshs350,000 (USD 95) from the group pool to start a bakery business in her community, from which she currently makes a profit of Ugshs12,000 (USD3.22) per order. From this, Kenyi can ably afford her personal and family’s basic needs such as food and school requirements for the children. As this gained momentum, Kenyi sought for additional sources of income and landed a fairly formal job working as an Administrative Officer and Acting Finance Assistant at Palm Corps (a local NGO in her area).
“I am now able to take good care of myself and my family. When my husband was released from jail, he became an alcoholic but I have I used the knowledge that I gained from TPO Uganda to support my husband who had got lost in alcohol addiction. I also counsel other community members who are experiencing similar challenges,” added Kenyi. As a result of the counselling sessions, conducted by herself and others with support of TPO Uganda staff, Kenyi’s husband is steadily recovering. Additionally, Kenyi supported five other women in her community to deal with stress and other challenges in 2022.
“My whole life had been shattered with no source of help. But TPO Uganda supported me through counselling and financial boost to restore my family’s livelihood. I now live a more hopeful and happy life.”