It was an early start this morning. A 3.30am alarm call to get me up and prepared for the journey to the airport. Over the next 10 days I will be in Uganda and Rwanda to network with colleagues who are involved in efforts to build capacity for mental health in both countries. It will be great to engage in some important opportunities for knowledge exchange that will facilitate opportunities for reciprocal learning. We boarded the flight to Entebbe together. We had an initial 8 hour flight to our first stop (Kigali, Rwanda) before journeying on to Entebbe airport in Kampala. We arrived in to a rain-storm in Kigali. We’re very close to the equator here and the tropical weather will bring a mix of thunder-storms and sun at this time of the year. Indeed, on arriving in Kampala, it was thunder and lightening that greeted us.
My travel plan commenced with the 6am flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam I met up with Dr Rosco Kasujja (Lecturer at the University of Makerere) who is a clinical psychologist who is involved in teaching clinical psychologists at the University of Makerere. Rosco was returning from a work-related visit to Belgium. Rosco and I have spoken many times on Skype, but it was great to finally meet him in person. Having his company over provided a great opportunity to learn more about Uganda, the Ugandan peoples (lots of ethnic/tribal groups and over 40 languages – English being the official language), and mental health related challenges in the country. Rosco is also a big fan of sport, so it was fun to chat about his love for Manchester Utd and my love for Liverpool Football Club.
I will be delivering a workshop to colleagues in Kampala (the Ugandan capital city) relating to the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy approach that myself and colleagues from commit and act have been using in Sierra Leone. I have been working in recent weeks to revise and modify some of the training materials. I hope that this will be useful for the clinicians and academic staff that will be attending the 1-day Introductory ACT workshop that has been organized at the University of Makerere. I will also be delivering a teaching session on Global Mental Health to students, graduates and staff at the University of Makerere.
On Thursday 28th I will be journeying on to Kigali – the capital city of Rwanda. I will be hosted by Prof Phil Cotton who has taken a sabbatical from his position at the University of Glasgow to coordinate the amalgamation of medical training there. This will see a number of independent colleges consolidated into one overarching institution. The hope is that this will lead to a more efficient use of resources, greater standardization of approaches, and an improvement in the quality of training. It will be great to meet Phil’s colleague Stefan who I have been in discussion with in recent months about funding applications to support the development of mental health there.
In the run-up to my visit to central Africa I have been reading ‘Shake Hands With The Devil’. The book written by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, is an account of his time commanding the UN Assistance Mission For Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the awful genocide that occurred there in the early 1990s. A sobering read that captures the complexities, frustrations, and dire consequences that can occur when international peace-keeping efforts are under-resourced, under-staffed and lack the political clout that they ought to have. Understandably it is a sobering read, but it is also a vitally important read. An estimated 800,000 people died in an 80-day period in unprecedented levels of ethnic tension and brutality.