“…though at a bit of distance and with masks on, no usual hugs, we still experienced our usual attachment…”

Wells of Hope ‘Caregivers’ comprise prisoner’s wives who are the mothers of the children at Wells of Hope and mothers of inmates who are grandmothers of the children at Wells of Hope and any other relative of the children who has taken charge of caring for the inmates’ children who could be an uncle, auntie, elder brother/sister of the inmate.

Wells of Hope compassionate and sustainable support programs include the children’s holistic Education, Psychosocial, Health and Economic Empowerment programs. With the Psychosocial and Economic Empowerment programs, caregivers of the children are helped and enabled to cope with the effects of imprisonment and livelihoods empowerment initiatives are provided which include; Effective parenting, counseling, HIV counseling and Testing (HCT) and Sexual Reproductive Health Services (SRHS), Skills development like tailoring and financial literacy.

Due to effects of COVID – 19 and following the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) and remaining relevant to our beneficiaries with our programs in this pandemic, we decided to go ahead and meet with our beneficiaries (caregivers), but this time do it differently by conducting the Psychosocial meeting with a reasonable smaller number of 14 caregivers versus the 40 – 60 that attend a session of the meetings.

On 2nd September, 14 caregivers of the children from around and nearby Kampala arrived by 10.40 am and the program kicked off with praise and worship, introductions, expectations and meeting rules. Next on the program was ‘Communication from the Executive Director’, breakfast, Discussion about keeping ourselves productive during COVID – 19 Pandemic, Parenting and Voluntary Saving and Loans Associations Training, Reactions and Questions time, Group picture, Lunch, Voluntary Counseling and Testing in partnership with Aids Information Centre, Evaluation of the meeting, giving out of clothes to caregivers donated by Unilever during their end of year Christmas CARE and LOVE campaign 2019 and a closing prayer.

“Communication from the Executive Director” is always my highlight of the program and this time I was so thrilled to see our children’s caregivers after quite some time because we were supposed to conduct a Psychosocial support meeting in April which did not happen and during lock-down we kept on phone. We were able to visit about 15% of them in the communities where they stay with some limitations, but seeing them face to face was my highlight as I made my remarks, I was grateful to God for keeping them safe amidst the immense challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Some of them looked good but some looked worried and uncertain but their faces lighted up during the Praise and Worship and they also showed me gratitude as we greeted each other! It was a special moment, though at a bit of distance and with masks on, no usual hugs, we still experienced our usual attachment between the Caregiver of a child of an inmate and Wells of Hope that has identified and is addressing the needs of this vulnerable group of people in society, yet with unique psychological, social, financial and physical needs in our communities. We laughed at how we were all looking in the “new normal” and laughter does sooth hearts!

The 15 participants of mothers, grandmothers, uncles, aunties had a lot to share with us, I encouraged them about being positive and optimistic, having hope just like our “Wells of Hope” name during this trying time, ensuring them of Wells of Hope continued support! They were so so grateful for the love, care and counseling that was offered during the lock-down when most of them were going through tough times, they appreciated the “financial support” that was sent through mobile money, when everyone else did not care or was struggling to make ends meet for their own families, yet the head of a family is locked up in prison, I quote, “Wells of Hope, we can never thank you enough” one of the ladies exclaimed while on her knees shedding tears of gratitude!

Lessons learnt;

  1. Not even a pandemic like COVID – 19 can take away the passion and vision of reaching out to that vulnerable group that God has put on our hearts! Because during all the time of lock-down Wells of Hope Founder and staff were on phone, on-line finding ways on how to reach our beneficiaries and indeed this was evidenced in this meeting.
  2. Facilitating a smaller group of 15 caregivers was more impactful than when we have bigger groups and Wells of Hope is looking into adopting the same for upcoming meetings.
  3. Caregivers have realized the importance of saving and investing, which they echoed during the response and feedback time, where they appreciated the financial literacy trainings they have undergone in the previous Psychosocial meetings.
  4. As a result of the meeting, we got first hand information of the caregivers’ experiences during the COVID – 19 lockdown and the caregivers were counseled about some of these situations.
  5. During the sensitization and updates on trends of HIV by Aids Information Centre, we all got to learn about the new “HIV test kit” that can be accessed at the Health Centres and Pharmacies and one can easily find out their test and seek further advice not limited by distance.
  6. We got to learn more about the effects of COVID – 19 and HIV through the different experiences and situations in the communities and how unique each individual is and how each family of inmates is affected uniquely.
  7. We also got to appreciate the time the children have spent with their caregivers who are mainly mothers and grandmothers and the growth of their close relationships compared to when they are at school, parents have gotten to know their children more, their strength and weaknesses which has helped them appreciate the work of schools and NGO’s like Wells of Hope.

Appreciation;

I would like to appreciate the Board of Directors and staff at Wells of Hope for the commitment and dedication exhibited always and more especially during these difficult times to ensure that the inmates, children of inmates and caregivers of the children are cared for and helped to cope with the effects of imprisonment, HIV and AIDS and now COVID – 19! My appreciation goes out to all our partners, funders and sponsors of the children who have stood with us before and continued to trust us and support us during this time of the pandemic and always! Our prayer is that God blesses you and increases you always! We also pledge as Wells of Hope Ministries to continue serving our group of beneficiaries with utmost dedication and commitment!

Ellen Eva K. Ssuubi, Executive Director

Children With Imprisoned Parents Advance In Tailoring

Irene and Catherine, who are heading the tailoring project at Wells of Hope have started their training. The sessions are to help them acquire more tailoring skills; and will later train their friends. The training is being done by Hadijah, one of the caregivers who graduated in 2018.

Today’s session was about trimming and how to take measurements.
We thank everyone who’s supporting us!

Therapy At Wells Of Hope

Sometimes, children do not easily share what they are going through in their lives. Through recreation activities, children are able to express themselves more; and as they do so, their behavioral patterns are observed. Gloria, the Assistant Programs Officer held a recreational activity with the children over the weekend; and the theme was to remain focused in life.

Through the activity, she encouraged the children to stay focused and make friends; “Everyone needs friends to support them to win or reach their goals,” she said.

Children Exercising Their Rights Through Voting: Child Protection

The policies or decisions we make affect children more strongly than any other group of people. Through selecting leaders by use of secret ballot paper, children get freedom to speak, enjoy their rights and select leaders by their choice. Yesterday, the children have selected leaders in various departments/sections which included: children’s council, dormitory section, welfare and entertainment. The children’s council now comprises leaders who represent 4 groups (age brackets of the children at Wells of Hope); the junior boys, senior boys, junior girls and senior girls. The children also participated in naming their groups.

Helping Children Cope With Parental Imprisonment

Gloria Nakangu, Assistant Programs Officer interacting with Edith

One of the biggest issues children with parents in prison face is trauma; which is manifested through other issues including, but not limited to; anxiety, aggressiveness, lack of sleep, among other issues. Through counseling, the children are able to cope with having a parent(s) in prison.

During the individual and group counseling sessions, children revealed their major worries. They are worried about their parents in prison. Since this year begun, they have never visited their parents; and unfortunately the prisons are now closed to any visitors during this time. The children are also worried about when schools will reopen fully; currently, only candidates have been allowed to go back to school. Children in other classes are worried that they might not be promoted to the next classes.

Gloria interacting with the younger boys at Wells of Hope Junior School