The day of the workshop had finally arrived. I was honoured that Dr Janet Nambi and Dr Peter Baguma (the Dean of the Department of Psychology) were in attendance. In total, there were about 70 people at the event, which was a really fantastic crowd for the first-ever Acceptance and Commitment Therapy workshop in Uganda. I was proud to represent both the University of Glasgow and commit and act in this work. The Rosco had done such a great job with sending invites to university faculty, students, clinicians and NGO staff. The venue (a lecturer theatre in the Department of Pharmacy) was perfect, and the technology did not let us down.
I commenced the workshop by discussing the work that ‘commit and act’ have been doing in Sierra Leone. The attendees were interested to hear about this work and the issues that people face in Sierra Leone. We then moved on to the key focus of the day: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Across the day we explored the rationale for the ACT approach, unpacked the concept of ‘psychological flexibility’ and then took time to reflect on three particular points of focus: Being Present, Being Open, and Doing What Matters. Experiential exercises were used throughout to allow attendees to engage the head, the heart and the hands. Attendees also got the opportunity to rehearse particular techniques. The members of the audience were bright and enthusiastic. They asked great questions and had some brilliant insights into how the work can be adapted for a Ugandan context.
I had invested a lot of time putting the materials together in the last few weeks; wanting to ensure that the content was appropriate and accessible. I owe a debt of gratitude to the trainers that I have worked with in the last number of years who have inspired me and helped me refine my approach and find a style that seems to work for both myself, and the audience. Thanks particularly to Beate Ebert, David Gillanders, Russ Harris, and Kevin Polk. I really enjoyed facilitating the day and feel very enriched by the experiences that the day brought. The interplay with the audience helped to stimulate ideas about how ACT can be specifically adapted for a Ugandan context. Dr Nambi and Prof Baguma rounded the day off with some kind words of gratitude. Discussions will now turn to how ‘commit and act’ and University of Glasgow can help support the further development of psychosocial interventions in Uganda. There was time at the end of the day to speak with attendees about their experience of the workshop and address any questions that they might have had.
A number of people attending the workshops had come from Lira in the South-West of Uganda. Many of this contingent were working with the Caritas organization. A local Catholoic Priest (Fr Pansiano) works to coordinate the Caritas initiatives in that area. He is heavily involved in efforts to boost capacity for psychosocial interventions in this part of the country. Ironically, Fr Pansiano is actually in Glasgow at the current time. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet with him at the University of Glasgow a couple of days before I left for Uganda.
Elizabeth Amongi was one of the ladies that had travelled from Lira. Elizabeth completed an MSc in Organisational Psychology at the University of Nottingham a few years ago. She is a powerful lady who has been appointed as a Psychology Lecturer at the University in Lira. Elizabeth is doing important outreach work to rural communities to support the physical and mental health needs of women living there. These women can be suffering from gynaecological issues, and many are also victims of gender-based violence. Elizabeth and I spoke for quite some time about the importance of mental health promotion related work for these communities. Elizabeth is deeply passionate about this work and I think she will make important strides in the future.
I was struck today by the distances that people travel on a daily basis to undertake their studies or go to their place of work. For example, one of the attendees that I spoke with named Fredrick travels to Kampala from Jinja everyday. This is a journey of 2.5hrs if the traffic is light and considerably longer during rush hour times. Commitment indeed!
This evening Rosco, Peter and myself enjoyed dinner together at Rosco’s apartment. It was a lovely gesture to be invited into Rosco’s home. We very much enjoyed the opportunity to relax after a busy couple of days.