Challenges faced by young people with lived experience of care
Today, we talk to the leading psychologist on our Wellbeing Project, Grace Atim. Grace shares her views on the challenges young people with lived experience of care face in Uganda today.
According to Grace, growing away from a family creates a void within the young people and leaves them with many unanswered questions. Questions that Grace says she hears a lot are 'Why me?’, ‘What did I do wrong to be put here?’, ‘Why am I treated differently?’, ‘Why won’t anyone listen to me?’. Most often such questions go unvoiced, ravaging through the minds of young minds, and creating much deeper scars and fears.
This and other traumatic experiences fuel the onset of mental health challenges. Some of the challenges may be genetic, others occur as a result of the experiences the young persons have had while living in orphanages.
Grace shares that the feedback she has collected from the young people we support indicates the presence of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and stress.
Building trusting relationships with young people we work is vital when it comes to ensuring their wellbeing and positively impacting their lives. Our social worker Ruth with a Babirye, one of the young people we work with.
Uganda is ranked among the top six countries in Africa in rates of depressive disorders, while 2.9% live with anxiety disorders. With the onset of COVID-19, these figures have gone higher.
Esteem, self determination, attachment, and identity issues are just some of the issues that Child’s i Foundation’s social workers address as they work with young care leavers.
Many young people struggle to fit in a society that perceives children who grow up in orphanages as spoiled and entitled. Grace shares that they are often seen as “children of muzungu”, which translates to “children of white people”, referring to the fact that most privately run orphanages are founded and run by White Westerners. This ties in with young people’s self definition getting distorted, and in many cases contributes to the feeling of being lost or feeling inner emptiness.
Phiona Bizzu, Miss Uganda 2012, sharing her experience of growing up in an orphanage
Child’s i Foundation, in collaboration with Alternative Care Initiatives, Uganda Care Leavers and Makerere University, with generous support from Grand Challenges Canada and UBS Optimus Foundation, have set out to change the narrative for young care leavers in Uganda.
Over the next 2 years, with the help of young people with lived experience of care themselves across 5 districts, we will use a trauma informed approach and human centred design to develop tools that raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing and equip young people with the knowledge, life and social skills to become peer mentors and a support network for other young people in their communities experiencing trauma.