If Uganda can teach us one thing ladies – go for your FREE cervical screening, something Ugandan ladies would die for….

In the UK recently there has been large campaigns raising awareness of the dangers ladies face through avoiding their smear tests. We can all be guilty of it- some not going at all, some of us (me included!) going late- something that I can hand on heart say I will change as from today.

Whether it be through embarrassment, feeling uncomfortable, body confidence issues or negative experiences- there is a list of reasons women don’t go, that is as long as that super long and scary instrument young women picture coming towards them whilst laying on the nurses bed…..the truth is – it’s not what nightmares are made of, and you will be out of that office in 5 minutes flat.

Cervical cancer is a huge killer for women in Uganda, the luxury of free screening is a world away from the reality women here are faced with. Late presentation of cervical cancer is extremely common, Tallulah and I are quickly loosing count of the women we are meeting through Hospice Africa Uganda presenting at a late stage where curative treatment is no longer an option palliative care steps in.

The pain, discomfort, and although always minimised by family and professionals, indignity of this disease, is something I will not forget.

Compare this pain, discomfort and indignity to that of a 5 minute free screening test – some things are not worth the wait.



Maureen’s Birthday Treat!

Maureen and Vicky are the ladies that look after us whilst at hospice, they are great cooks, cleaners, but most importantly advisors! They help us with absolutely anything we are unsure on and we don’t know what we would do without them!

It was Maureen’s birthday on the 3rd of March and we missed it! So when we realised we planned to take her and Vicky out for dinner. It was so lovely to look after them for a change after all they do for us- a lovely night with lovely people!

Day care

Every other Tuesday Hospice Africa Uganda hosts a day centre for people accessing services and their families. Service users can come in, see the doctors, speak to the social workers about any psychosocial issues they are having and have breakfast and lunch with other people in a similar situation. Sophie and I joined the day centre this Tuesday to help assess patients’ wellbeing and learn about what the day centre does.

The centre is split up into adults’ and children’s services. The adults’ service has places the patients can go and rest, opportunities to talk to the hospice team and space to socialise. In the children’s section there are toys, games and space outside to run around. A volunteer told me that sometimes disabled children don’t get many opportunities to play so the day centre is invaluable to them. The centre also gives parents and carers an opportunity to rest and talk to each other. Unfortunately carers in Uganda often do not get much support and caring responsibilities can fall on one person alone so carers can start to feel isolated. The day centre is an opportunity to socialise, share concerns and make friends.

We started the day in the adults’ service. We were very impressed by the volunteers who help run the centre and by the patients who stay positive despite all their challenges. We met one volunteer from South Sudan who could speak seven languages! She helped us communicate with the elderly patients who couldn’t speak English and explained what they do at the centre. We heard some incredible stories from people who were facing dire life circumstances and challenges and we were amazed at how positive and optimistic people seemed.

We then went over to the children’s section and had our first experience of direct service user interaction. We had been shadowing other professionals up until then and were excited for the chance to do some direct work, but a little nervous about how we’d get on. In the end we learned a lot about the value of the day centre for families and children. I met a family who had only been to the day centre twice but were already feeling better about the future and were coping better than they had before. Sophie met a young person who had been accessing the centre for fifteen years and spoke very highly of the work Hospice does with people like her. Despite her diagnosis she was an optimistic, confident young person who was determined to succeed in life. We could see how important it was for the children to have some time to play and make friends. Their carers also valued a chance to rest while the children played.

We were so impressed with what Hospice is able to achieve with children and young people and felt very proud to be part of such an amazing service even for a short time. We’re looking forward to seeing the day centre again in two weeks and meeting the children again.

Educate a girl; educate a nation

Happy international women’s day! Unlike the UK, today is a public holiday in Uganda. This week we’ve been out in the community meeting, assessing and supporting foster families.

Meet Susan*. Hands down, she has my nomination for woman of the year and we have some important lessons to learn from her. She’s one of CALM’s trained foster carers and has been fostering for the last few years.

Susan’s motivation for opening her home, wallet and heart?

Historically, girls in Uganda we’re not educated. Recognising the importance of this in her own life and remembering how her mother fought for her to go to school, Susan saw the importance of offering a child a hope and a future through providing a safe home and access to education.

Education is a key intervention tool for CALM Africa. Partnering with Jolly Mercy School they sponsor children, at least until the end of primary school, to receive an education. In contrast to the UK, parents are responsible for all school fees including; the provision of books, school uniforms and even examinations, with little external support if you cannot afford to send your children to school.

Multi-agency working is important for any social work intervention, but here access to education truly can change a life. Through the school, children receive regular nutritious food, access to health care and learn life skills. Children can also be regularly assessed and subsequent protection plans put into place.


Photo by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash

According to Susan, “if you educate a girl, you educate a nation”. Education has the potential to break the poverty cycle; girls grow into young women, continuing with education or employed in meaningful work and then give their children the best foundation possible. Alternatively, particularly in rural areas, girls are often married off before they reach 16.

Clearly boys need education too, without a doubt! However, according to the UN, women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people. If we want to see an end to human trafficking, exploitation, poverty, inequality and social injustice in the UK and globally, we have to have the full team on board, championing differences and utilising diversity. Men AND Women: seeking creative solutions to social injustice, creating hope and a future for everyone.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Whether for ourselves, others or as a social work intervention, lets not despise the small beginnings. Equality starts with education.


Sophie outside Jolly Mercy School.

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Welcome to CALM Africa

After a few internet and technology difficulties Sophie and I are now online and excited to share with you our experience of Uganda so far. We arrived at CALM Africa last week to an incredible warm welcome from the staff and all of the children at Jolly Mercy School.

It’s been a real privilege so far to experience and hear more about the work that CALM Africa are doing in regards to promoting the rights of children and pioneering foster care in their local community, as well as nationally through government consultation.

CALM: Child advocacy and lobbing mission.

CALM Africa: Children’s rights advocacy and lobbing mission

CALM Africa launched as a result of the aids epidemic, in order to support orphaned children who had cared for and watched their parents die. Once orphaned they would live with other family members, many of which we’re also HIV+. Often they would have to repeat the same trauma of watching family members die, while having to take on household responsibilities. As a result, many children would refuse to stay with family, instead preferring to make their own way on the streets of Kampala, vulnerable and alone.

Historically, formal foster care in Uganda has primarily featured as a precursor to adoption. When a child was in need of care family members would often informally look after the child, however, this has clear child protection issues. Children could go missing or be at risk of trafficking, recording keeping was difficult and foster carers we’re not always equipped to provide appropriate care. If family members we’re not available children were taken to orphanages indefinitely, resulting in institutionalisation and an inability to integrate into the community upon leaving care.

Today CALM Africa are pioneering community foster care in Uganda. They recruit, train and support members of the local community to become foster carers, providing a safe home and education for children in need. Unlike the UK, foster carers are not paid and are expected to meet the costs of fostering themselves. However, CALM do provide support and access to sustainable development projects, as well as sponsoring children to go to school, through their connection with Jolly Mercy. They ensure to continue monitoring foster care placements, ensuring the children are well cared for, protected and emotionally supported and that the carers are trained, equipped and supported.

The Ugandan government have recognised the detrimental impact of orphanage care on childhood development, through institutionalisation and corruption. Acknowledging CALM’s success and strategy, CALM are consulting and working with other social work organisations and government to expand formal community foster care throughout Uganda, promoting and protecting child rights.

Children thrive best in safe and secure homes, supportive families and through access to education. It truly is amazing to see what can happen and just how much lives can change through creative social work intervention, individual generosity and community collaboration.

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Second Weekend – Reunion.

So following being separated for the week whilst on placement, the group was bought back together on Friday night for the weekend all staying together at the Hospice guesthouse. It wasn’t just Tallulah, Alex and myself that were delighted to see Sophie B and Jess return ‘home’ but Vicky and Maureen who look after us at the guesthouse welcomed them back with open arms also.

Sophie and Jess are really enjoying their placement at Calm Africa, they are working closely with Jolly Mercy school, getting to know the children there and doing lots of teaching. They have also visited families in the community that are supported by Calm and who provide foster placements – an aspect both Jess and Sophie B have been impressed with. They have been doing care plan assessments for children that board at the school, looking at education, health, religious views, family history and the best ways to support them – which is great assessment experience. They have met an incredible woman who was matoke picker (green bananas!) and looked after 15 children in the community unpaid. Calm Africa chose her to become one of their unique foster carers, she now fosters 7 children who attend the school. They have found the lack of resources difficult, as when being asked to teach lessons such as art and music the resources available being so limited has forced them to be quite creative in their thinking. The language barrier has also been a challenge when conducting assessments, although the children do speak English, when discussing more complex issues it could be difficult. They have had a lot of fun with the children as well, teaching them games such as whats the time Mr Wolf (slightly adapted to whats the time Mrs Lion!) and duck duck goose creating lots of fun and laughter. They do not currently have access to internet very frequently – hence this update on their behalf.

Friday night we had a lovely dinner cooked by Vicky at the guesthouse, she joined us to eat so she could catch up with the weeks events. Following our meal we all went for a few drinks with some friends we have made at Hospice who are also from the UK. On Saturday we hired a driver to take us to the equator – rather a long journey but worth it for the photo opportunity! The ride back was slightly hairy, being pulled over by the police once, the reasons for which were rather unclear and then having a little bump with another car – we all got home safely in the end. That evening we had a lovely team meal, treating ourselves to something a little different to the rice and peas served daily at Hospice, and the variations of egg served at Calm – it was such a treat!

Sunday we caught up with work and emails using the wifi in a local cafe before Sophie B and Jess left us for another week, goodbyes are sad but welcome backs will soon come round next weekend.

Day 3 & 4 – Hospice Africa!

Both days have been spent conducting more school visits, three primary schools and one vocational college where we met 3 lovely young men completing courses in plumbing and electronics. All the visits were much more positive with the children appearing happy and well. Scholar materials (paper, pens, pencils ect) were donated to some children who live in parentless households- which were long awaited and very gratefully received! Getting around Kampala for visits is proving tricky – often spending hours longer in the car than with service users! However each visit is worthwhile, whether it takes 30 minutes or 3 hours to get there. The best item I bought from the UK for these visits was a polaroid camera. The children we visit need to have their pictures taken for their sponsors to see their progress, however it is very rare for a child to ever receive a picture of themselves – seeing their faces when we instantly printed pictures for each on of them to keep has been invaluable. Each night we conduct de-briefs with each other, generally over a beer, and on day 3 next to the swimming pool – winding down after placement in the UK may not be the same…Image-1