Memory work in francophone Africa

Memory work and psychosocial support to orphans are an important component of the European Union-funded three-year programme of support to vulnerable children in the Republic of Central Africa. In 2007 Sinomlando representatives facilitated workshops and visited AIDS orphans organizations in the cities of Bangui, Sibut and Bambari.

In return, Dr Nambuka Badibanga, HIV/AIDS programme administrator at UNICEF, Bangui, visited the Sinomlando Centre to explore the possibility of joint training projects. As a result Vincent Sezibera, a lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Rwanda, was sent by Sinomlando to Bambari to run a workshop for community workers from the three provinces who had been trained the year before by Caritas Centrafrique.

After spending several months as an intern at the Sinomlando Centre in Pietermaritzburg, Jeanne d'Arc Kengne from Cameroon has in 2008 initiated memory work in her home country. In a first step facilitators were trained during a four-day seminar. They then conducted a camp for AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children, using the Memory Box methodology and providing bereavement counseling.

ACMR (Association Culturelle Mission de Récréation) and UREPDA (Unité de Recherche pour la Participation et Développement des Adolescents), both non-governmental organisations based in Cameroons largest city Douala, have jointly organized the two workshops.

Meanwhile community three community workers from Hope and Homes, an AIDS orphans organisation from Rwanda, took part in a three-week exposure programme organised by Sinomlando in June and July 2007. Back in their home country they started to run oral history workshops in the different provinces where Hope and Homes is operating in the country.

A similar programme was run in June 2008 with two community workers from Ethiopia and another two from Cameroon. A third one, this time with community workers from Ivory CoastBeninCentral Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, took place in September and October 2008, with the support of Secours catholique, Paris.

In September and December 2009 respectively Jeanne d'ArcKengne went to Central Africa and Vincent Sezibera went to Ivory Coast and to evaluate the manner in which the participants of the exposure programme had implemented memory work in their respective organisations. Activities took place in some areas, particularly Ivory Coast and Benin, but not as much as expected because of the lack of means. As a result Secours catholique in cooperation with its partners in West Africa had engaged in a process of fundraising to develop memory work and psychosocial support to OVC in the region.

Since 2013 Sinomlando provides technical support to three memory work programmes in West Africa, in Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo respectively. The local managers received training in South Africa. At regular intervals Sinomlando staff members visit them in their home country and assist in them in planning and monitoring their projects.