Let me walk in your shoes. Zambia

“Let me Walk in Your Shoes” is a prototype that was birthed out of a group of Ubuntu Cohort 1 team of about 5 people based on our conviction that everyone has an issue that they would need to talk to someone about some time if not most times in their lives. It started based on a discussion around the plights of the underprivileged and/or marginalized and discriminated people and how the various issues affecting their circumstances may have an impact on their mental faculties and the need for us to provide some form of presence even if it was just to listen and hear them out.

In addressing issues identified culminating into mental challenges at different levels, the group sought to acquire more knowledge about mental health and how individuals or groups such as Ubuntu Lab could involve itself in addressing the challenges. Some of the activities undertaken included:

  • A sensing journey to a clinic called Renaissance which is a practice in Lusaka owned by a qualified Psychiatrist and her husband. This was to learn the kind of mental issues that they were dealing with and the impact they were making. The journey revealed the high need and yet high cost of the service which can only be afforded by an elite few at the private hospital level.

Among the areas of interest, we learnt of the programs that they were looking to roll out into the communities and how Ubuntu Lab could get involved. One interesting program was how they planned on offering training to selected communities on how to identify and handle mental health on a “first aid basis” in addition to mental health training. We saw a huge opportunity for Ubuntu Lab to participate in such a program.

  • We brainstormed around the possible issues surrounding Zambia’s largest Psychiatric Hospital and identified the possible need for a change in the name from the long-standing Chainman to another name. This was because we noted that the name carried a negative connotation and therefore did not provide comfort to people needing mental health “treatment” of a not so advanced stage to feel that they could consider it as an option for help. This was due to the fear that they have that they would be called “mad” which is the brand that the hospital appears to currently carry. Discussions with stakeholders are yet to be had on the issue of the name change.

We also agreed to donate some clothes to patients at the hospital particularly those that had been deserted by their families and could not be integrated back into society. This activity is yet to take place, but contact was made with the hospital who gave guidance on the best way to procced.

  • During cohort 3 I introduced an Ubuntu Group at my office and we held case clinics often allowing people to share their fears and challenges and allowing them to open up without fearing judgement. This helped develop lasting relationships and an attitude of carrying each other’s burdens and walking in each other’s shoes became a reality.

Maggie Kaunda mejbanda@gmail.com