A Ugandan Youth,


Dear Muzukulu,

Re: Exploring alternatives with opportunities now and ahead.

I trust that you are safe wherever you are. I congratulate you upon surviving and reaching this far. There is a saying that survival is for the fittest; in this situation, we could not have imagined who was fit enough to survive. Keep taking care.

I am not sure what you might be feeling right now, I would like to send you vigorous energies, thoughts, and wisdom for the days ahead. I encourage you to keep brave and adhere to both the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health Uganda guidelines.

Two months ago, I was locked down. I was afraid because ever since I was born, it was my first time to experience a lockdown. I was not prepared at all mentally, financially, and socially. I could not imagine what would happen in the next couple of days. I received all sorts of bad news. Both from friends who lost jobs, family members, my biggest support system who were stuck in their homes and new working policies that I needed to accept.  I had very bad nights because my sleeping patterns changed, from peaceful to peaceless and shorter. The energy surrounding me and attitude was so negative. My mental health thus drained.

At first it was difficult to seek support. My colleagues recommended a webinar that shared some work from home and well-being resource materials. I practiced them and took each day at a time by not rushing myself and focusing on what I liked doing. Before, I was always anxious for information about new COVID19 cases and what was happening in the world. I had to declutter from that information by reading two leadership books with a group of five women online.

It later turned out to be a learning and quite good experience. I rediscovered myself and acquired new hobbies. I learned how to bake snacks and I have baked ten cakes so far in a short time as I tried new recipes. I started running as a form of exercise. That became my new hobby, and I am learning that when I am tensed up or stressed, running or walking in nature is therapeutic for me. I had to think strategically for now and in the future. I discovered and found new career opportunities and shifted gears to business online through delivery.

On many occasions, my gadgets had issues and I had to search for technicians around who were locked down in their homes This is because my laptop was my source of income since I worked remotely and had to deliver results. With time my phone failed to function, it was a whole mess for my resources to use while home. With a group of friends, I tried to carry out charity to support fellow youth with food and sometimes participated in online advocacy programs.

Uganda’s population of youth is over 70%; the few youth I encountered had lost their jobs, and others were asked to take forced leave. The challenges to pay rent were high. I vividly remember how my female friend complained of her landlord who always hit her bedroom window early in the morning asking for rent money. She reported to the local councilor of the village who cautioned him from hitting her window.

So many youths spent days on empty stomachs. It was difficult to access health services from facilities that were not youth-friendly, including difficulty in accessing ART refills for people living with HIV due to poor transport means since the transport means were restricted.  The difficulty in dealing with mental health and loans was frustrating among youth.

I might not explain what you feel right now, but I believe there is a solution. I have witnessed young people on so many occasions who are not seated doing nothing. I encourage you to stay brave and speak up because it is the only way you can be helped.

Declutter from any negative and unrewarding information. You can call the 116 child helpline and explain the situation in your life for support. Contact me if you need some connection to therapy and shelter to support you. Even at midnight when I would receive scary calls by survivors seeking for help, my networks connected me to service providers and counselors who rendered support to them in all ways.

I have also seen youth who have innovatively made money during this period. They have made home masks, made use of urban planting, and agriculture. They have continued to operate in hard environments because of the strong support system around them. Unfortunately, this system might be difficult to discover now. Utilize the one you can access now and use this period to build it.

I encourage you to work with others. Much as we are social distancing, we cannot work alone. We should support where we can in our own capabilities; volunteering with health workers and reporting cases of human rights abuses such as violence which has rampantly grown in this pandemic.  Bond with beloved ones, and if you can access the radio, television, or any source of information, try to utilize this information for positive and developmental programs. Engage in discussions that nurture you into a leader with open-minded ideas. Make your mind busy and learn something new every day. Have a daily routine and stay consistent with it. Try talking to someone mature and seek support on how to be helped if you need support.

I believe in you. Do not sit and wait for opportunities. Let opportunities find you. May your attitude grow to be positive! Nothing has ever failed from trying. It takes a spark to start a fire, and with efforts, you will create change.

We are resilient and energetic.

In sisterhood.

Patricia Humura