Connecting local responses around the world
Since December 2011, The Constellation has worked in partnership with the World Health Organisation and Health Nest Uganda to transfer the Community Life Competence process. The aim of the partnership has been to strengthen the participation of older persons in local community responses. In April 2012, a group of new CLCP facilitators met together to measure their progress and document their experiences. These are their stories.
Bed-ridden youth finds strength to walk freely
A home visit in Katabi helps connect HIV-concerns across generations
Theopista Ndyabahinduka, Vincent Semugabi, Rosemary Katasi, Joyce Mayinja, Abner Kiryowa
In January 2012, we participated in a workshop on the Community Life Competence Process (CLCP), organised through Health Nest Uganda (HENU) with the support of The Constellation and the World Health Organisation (WHO). We found CLCP to be an approach that aims at promoting community self-reliance by stimulating people to appreciate their strengths and manage their own lives. The process deals with human strength rather than weakness.
Following the workshop, several participants – Arthur, Vincent, Fred, Emmanuel and Theopista – met and planned for home visits in Katabi-Busambaga. Here we visited many homes, including that of seventy-five year old widow, Ruth*, whose husband died in 2004. Ruth was left with eight children, all of whom died, leaving her with eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. One of these great-grandchildren is David* who, at 23 years of age, is a total orphan, never having seen his mother. For some six months prior to our team’s visit, David had been down sick with HIV and TB, secretly receiving treatment from Mildmay hospital, but living in shame. He did not want to be known or seen by people. Three other grandchildren are very weak and thin, suspected to have either HIV or TB, but they did not want to know their HIV status, and had not been tested.
Ruth shared her concern with the visiting team. She is a very burdened woman, not happy due to all her family’s illness, and deeply upset by the youngest grandchild who is a drug addict and alcoholic. He beats her when he is drunk, and her neighbours need to rush to her defence.
Finding the family together during our home visit, we engaged them in conversation, trying to build a relationship through strategic questioning. We asked about their concerns and their hopes in life, what they were proud of, and what they understood about HIV and TB. At the start of the conversation, they were silent, not wanting to contribute to the discussion but, with time, they opened up and began to freely participate. They even admitted that they needed help, and asked for support to go for testing and drug counselling, and for education around hygiene and nutrition. Grateful for this breakthrough, our team talked with them about TASO and the Virus Research Institute and referred them to those agencies.
How exciting it was to hear them contribute ideas towards solutions to the problems of HIV, AIDS and TB in their own community! “I see now that there is a need for the young people to change their behaviour” said David. One of the other grandchildren had been listening intently and was obviously thoroughly thinking through everything before declaring that he wanted to be tested for HIV. “We need to reduce our sexual partners,“ he agreed, “and even abstain. This disease is painful and deadly.”
By this time, neighbours – an elderly married couple - had arrived at Ruth’s home, and joined in the conversation. “Our community needs to stop mweso and card games, limit the time for disco and film shows, and get support from the government to tighten the rules on schoolchildren taking drugs. Our town council needs to specify a time limit for beach entertainment amongst our young people.”
Despite the challenging circumstances, we recognised that Ruth and her family have strengths. They are loving and caring people, who are looking after their sick family members – feeding them, administering medication, bathing them. The homestead itself was very clean and an environment conducive to the care of a sick person.
Our SALT visit was appreciated by the family, but went even further beyond that. It attracted the attention of neighbours who wanted to know what was involved, leading to many more invitations for visits, which our team gladly responded to later.
And the best news? At the time this story is being written, April 2012, it has been reported to us by a community leader that David – who was secretly bed-ridden and frail – is now able to stand, to walk unassisted and freely in the community, and even goes to Church without shame.
This has really proved to us that CLCP can stimulate people’s strength to accept their situation and to manage their lives and gain hope to live positively and usefully in their communities. We know this will go a long way to reducing the burden on many older persons.
*Not their real names