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Power of Mindset Change: The case of Odongo Ambrose, a program beneficiary

The beauty of social work to me has always been the opportunity to experience and witness positive change manifest in the lives of the marginalized and vulnerable individuals. As an agent of change, there is nothing more fulfilling than to see someone, in their quest to better their life, eagerly embrace positive change with courage and optimism in the face of adversity. My current line of work involves working with youth prison inmates and ex-inmates by economically empowering and socially reintegrating them back into their respective communities. This is done through a number of different interventions which include but are not limited to training in entrepreneurship and life skills, conducting pre and post-release visits, helping ex-prison inmates build small scale businesses and continuously mentoring and supporting them.

I usually take keen interest in pre and post-release visits because I sincerely believe that these two interventions grant us the opportunity to walk together with the ex-inmates on their journey to greatness and in the process witness substantial change take its roots, an experience I truly find gratifying. These visits are an integral part of the reintegration process and it is without doubt that they have tremendously helped in fighting stigma and…


My children got married when i was in prison.

My name is Akumu Margaret, a 39-year old mother of eight children. I bake and sell doughnuts at Pajule trading centre in Pader District. In August 2013, I was imprisoned for assault following a bitter struggle with my sister in law.

I lost my husband in 2008 and decided to stay in my marital home to raise my children. While he was sick, his brother asked to come live with us so he can support and I accepted. Unfortunately, he had unknown plans of taking over my husband’s property in case he died. Immediately my husband passed on, my brother in-law and his family started fighting for his property and I had to be pushed away because I was looked at as a stumbling block. I was told their late brother’s property also belonged to them.

Earlier in 2012, I could not walk because I felt a lot of pain in my legs. I had no excuse but to put the blame on my sister in-law and her husband because I thought they were bewitching me for refusing to hand over my late husband’s property to them. From that incident, we started developing hatred…


Knowledge Is Power

As a Program Officer at my host organization, I was privileged to participate in one of the trainings on entrepreneurship and life skills. The training which took place at Pearl Afrique Hotel, in Gulu district earlier this month was organized to refresh the mind of Prison Social workers who support us in training prison inmates in the various prison units across northern Uganda and it was attended by 24 Prison Warders and Social workers with the aim of equipping them with knowledge on social work focusing on entrepreneurship and life skills so that in the long run they should also impart that knowledge to prison inmates.

It is a fact that when an inmate is released from prison, employment is a critical factor as to whether he or she becomes a law-abiding citizen or reverts back to their previous life of crime. Upon release, ex-prison inmates are easily tempted to go back into a life of crime, should they find hardship in making a living due to scarcity of employment opportunities. One sure way of solving the problem is through imparting vocational skills which inmates can use to make a livelihood.

During the training, I facilitated some sessions and it was…


The Beauty of Marrying Values and Culture of an Organization

In my brief work career, I have had the chance to work with different institutions both in public and private sectors, but frankly I find the setting in Advance Afrika quite exceptional. Barely a month working with here, I already feel like I have been part of this family for years, thanks to the unique and beautiful culture that exists within the organisation. This experience has compelled me to reflect on the importance of having a culture that fosters the mission and more importantly the vision and values of an organisation.

Advance Afrika’s core values are Dignity, Respect and Integrity. And by exercising these values, they have managed to build trust, foster accountability and transparency, not only among its staff members but more so with its distinct stakeholders.  Constant application of these values by all staff members has created a culture which all staff members effortlessly uphold and preserve at all costs. What makes it more interesting is that all this is collectively done amidst multiculturalism that exists in the organization.

One thing that intrigues me most also is how these organisational values guide decision-making and activities at all levels within the organization. I have had the privilege to attend a…


A leaf worth borrowing

During my first week working as a project officer for Advance Afrika, I was privileged to visit Erute prison farm in Lira district which is located in Lango sub-region in northern Uganda. It is a small prison unit housing about 160 male inmates. The visit was arranged to appreciate Advance Afrika’s interventions in prisons around Acholi and Lango sub-regions where they are economically empowering youth prison inmates by training them in entrepreneurship and life skills. Advance Afrika also provides start-up kits to some of the trained inmates upon release to enable them start small scale businesses.

 

During the visit, I had an opportunity to interact with both prison officers and prison inmates especially those that underwent entrepreneurship and life skills training courtesy of Advance Afrika. (more…)


The power of stakeholder’s involvement in Civil Societies intervention.

Sustainability of interventions is still a dilemma many organisations fight with on a daily basis. After spending a week in Malawi and interacting with different stakeholders from different backgrounds (lawyers, magistrates, police officials, community leaders, religious leaders, prison officials and right activists), I realized these cohorts do not only make civil societies work a success, but also hold each other accountable towards their mandate in supporting civil society interventions. When they discuss their mandates and understand what roles they are to collectively contribute towards their communities, civil societies interventions becomes more sustainable. (more…)


From jail to a farmer

In my earlier days in Uganda, my new home for the next one year, my host organisation Advance Afrika organised a field expedition to enable me monitor how some of the ex-prison inmates have reintegrated back in the society. We met Tekkwo Brian Olanya, an ex-prison inmate who served a 14 months sentence for theft in Lugore Farm Prison had transformed a long abandoned lot behind his house into an urban farm, where a number of beds now brims with vegetables.

At the far end of Kalturu Village in Pabbo Sub-county, Acholi region, sits a compound of the Tekkwo clan. The area lies in the formerly war torn region of northern Uganda characterised by famine, high levels of illiteracy and extreme poverty in recent years. According to the chat I had with him, lack of job opportunities, poverty stricken life and bad company of friends (more…)


Meeting Inmates in Malawi

This month, I was involved in few activities. I visited Kachere Reformatory Prison where I met the Officer in charge SSP Kamenya Jacob and we discussed several things including: the FK exchange program’s aims such as designing entrepreneurship programs bearing in mind the context and needs of the prison inmates. I shared with him the list of activities we intend to carry out in prisons to enable him have a clear understanding of what exactly we are interested in building. He was impressed with our program and promised to give us all the necessary support we needed, he gave me an opportunity to address inmates on various issues which i did with passion.

Kachere Reformatory Prison keeps male inmates between 15 to 21 years of age. I also carried out lay visit at Area 3 Model police station, the purpose of the visit was to find out whether the 48 hours rule is respected, whether suspects statements were recorded by police officers, help connect suspects to their relatives and generally inspect the condition of the cell rooms and brief the OC Station on my findings and give practical recommendations on how to improve on the condition of the cells.

Back at home…


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