Displaced People are desperate people. Whether they are refugees forced to flee for their lives or whether they are survivors of disease or whether they are children whose parents have died, these people have nowhere to go. They have no resources. They have life but they dare not hope. Desperate people commit crimes. They commit suicide. They abuse each other and their children. They are prone to diseases and starvation. Is it any wonder they experience severe psychological trauma? Yet each of these people has the potential for hope, happiness and productivity just as they did pre-trauma. By using modern clinical techniques, it is possible to reduce traumatic stress and make people whole again.
Children may become orphans in many ways. Parents may have died of disease or armed conflict. Parents may have become unable to care for children due to addictions or afflictions. Children have been thrown out of the household to live on the street. Extended family rejects them. Children are abandoned in the refugee camps. Whatever the reason, young children suddenly find themselves facing survival. There are nearly a million of these in Uganda alone. The lucky ones are taken in by orphan care NGOs who offer shelter and send them to school. Yet the trauma remains, manifesting itself as bed-wetting, anger, rebellion, lethargy or lashing out at caregivers. HPA works with established NGOs to help children cope with the trauma, freeing them to be normal, happy, high-energy children.
The partner practitioners are African PhD-level professionals with years of experience in the field. In-country partners include the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister, the Uganda Ministry of Health, local hospital facilities and related organizations who work together synergistically. Practitioners come from Mbarara University of Science and Technology and other prestigious professional institutions. We have international financial partners who support the work both professionally and financially. Within the organization, the partners are hands-on clinicians who have united with a common goal of bringing critical care to vulnerable people.
The Managing Partner of HPA is Herbert E. Ainamani who holds a PhD in clinical psychology from Mbarara University of Science and Technology and Kostanz University in Germany.
The organization operates under the direction of a Board of Directors in Uganda, the chairman of which is the Director of Psychiatry at Mbarara University of Science and Technology. The organization also works closely with a Board of Advisors in the U.S. Beyond that, our work is regulated by the Uganda Ministry of Health and, in the refugee camps by the UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister. We regularly host researchers from European and African universities who scrutinize our methods and results with the intention of discovering innovations in the field.
We are there because we have discovered a body of people in great psychological distress which are woefully under-served by indigenous mental health professionals.
The refugee camp is a unique social scenario that breeds particularly deep psychological issues. Not only is there trauma from whatever event caused the refugees to flee, the desperate people then are forced to live within a mixture of ethnicities, some of which are traditionally hostile toward one another. The refugee population includes a mixture of victims and perpetrators – runaway soldiers, which creates awkward living and forgiveness issues. People suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with the exact same symptoms as soldiers returning from war. Treatments for this disorder are well known but in the camps it is more complex as issues of family, community and personal relationships add a layer of trauma to the normal PTSD. As therapists, we have come together to help people overcome their fears and instill in them a desire for a productive future.
Once people face the things that have happened to them and realize it is not their fault, they begin to gain hope. Such a transformation takes time and often multiple therapies, but in the end, people are resilient. If they regain hope, they can re-build self-sustaining lives and find happiness once again.