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Uganda: new mental centre is 'beacon of hope'

A charity linked in to churches in North Wales is celebrating the opening of a pioneering new mental health centre in Uganda.

The charity Jamie’s Fund, together with the Halkyn Mountain Parishes, the NHS and Kisiizi Hospital, are celebrating the opening of a brand new mental health centre in Uganda – named the ‘Ahumuza’ Centre.

Avril Devaney MBE, Director of Nursing at Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) and congregation member at St Mary’s Church, Halkyn in North Wales, says: “The centre is a beacon of hope that aims to give shelter and love to those with mental illness. ‘Ahumuza’ translated into English means ‘a place of comfort’.”

The Centre is also a lasting legacy for Jamie Devaney, Avril’s son, who died aged just four while on a fundraising trip with his parents to Uganda in 2011.

Jamie’s death touched many people in Uganda, neighbouring Kenya and the UK. His parents and friends set up Jamie’s Fund in response to the overwhelming support and offers of help that flooded in. Through this fund, and the hard work of family and supporters, the money was raised to build the new mental health centre in Kisiizi.

Avril comments: “I was honoured to be asked to attend the grand opening of the Ahumuza Centre. It is an amazing place because of the people who are there. The motto of Kisiizi Hospital is ‘Life in all its fullness’ and we are more aware than ever that full lives can be lived whatever a person’s circumstances. We are incredibly comforted to know that people will continue to be blessed because of Jamie’s life.”

The Rev’d Hugh Burgess, Chair of Jamie’s Fund and Priest in Charge of the Halkyn Mountain Parishes, comments: “The Parish has been touched by the inspirational story of Avril and her husband Jim’s journey through grief to hope, and then to this wonderful moment of creating a new centre to care for people in Uganda with mental illness.

"I know how important their faith has been to them during this time, and how many people’s lives have now been touched by their story and the legacy of a very special four-year-old boy, in whose name and memory wonderful things continue to be achieved.”

The Ahumuza Centre incorporates facilities for day patients, as well as male and female in-patient wards and facilitates a range of support including occupational therapy. There has also been a specialist area included to provide care for people who are very distressed. In addition, there are also outside gardens and recreational areas for the use of those at the centre.

As well as this, the Ahumuza Centre will also be a hub of community work and offer training and support to healthcare workers. One of the partnership’s key goals is to reduce the stigma of mental health in the region and to also support the rehabilitation of patients once they return to their homes.

A variety of exchange visits and shared learning has taken place between Kisizzi and the NHS in Cheshire, and the partnership has gone from strength to strength.

BACKGROUND

  • The Ahumuza Centre at Kisiizi Hospital is located in the Rukungiri region of South West Uganda. It is 29 miles from its nearest city, Kabale and approximately 234 miles from Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
  • On the day of the centre’s grand opening, Avril attended the celebration with Dr Diana Antwiine, Uganda’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health.
  • At the event, there was a hymn of celebration and a prayer of dedication by Bishop Patrick Tugume (recently retired Bishop of North Kigezi) and plaques were unveiled to commemorate the day and to remember Jamie’s life.
  • In addition, the programme of events continued at Kisiizi Primary School, which is attached to the hospital. There was a song of welcome by pupils at the school and a cultural dance by the Nyakishenyi Mental Health Association.
  • Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) provides mental health, learning disability and substance misuse services to the people of Cheshire and Wirral, as well as physical community services in Western Cheshire. The Trust provides these services in partnership with local authorities, service users, carers and the voluntary/independent sectors. www.cwp.nhs.uk
  • The Trust is a major local employer in Cheshire and the Wirral with 3,400 staff.
  • More information about Jamie’s Fund can be found at www.jamiesfund.org.uk
  • More information about kisiizi Hospital can be found at http://www.kisiizihospital.org.ug/

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