7 years ago I received my Uganda name “Kirabo” (which means gift in Luganda) from my amazing collaborator, friend & “big brother” Rogers Kasirye and his team. I first met Rogers at a KBS conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He shared about his organization (he is the Executive Director) the Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL) and the services and training they provide to youth in need. Mostly these youth live in the slums of Kampala and face many adversities including poverty, food and shelter insecurities, limited access to schooling, fragmented families, substance use and violence and some have also been trafficked. Rogers and his team provide a range of services to these youth, but are most known for the vocational training programs they lead to uplift the youth in need.
That day in Copenhagen more than 10 years ago was the beginning of a new journey for me, both personally and professionally. I didn’t know that then, but I have often reflected on the significance of that encounter and how trajectories can change because of a conversation, shared passion, and a vision for making a difference. Isn’t that powerful?
I have now known Rogers for over 10 years and we have worked on lots of projects together. Mostly we have focused on how to understand the context and circumstances for these vulnerable youth that comes to UYDEL for support. But, we have also sought to identify opportunities for how to best strengthen the services and programs for these youth, particularly with limited resources.
In addition to focusing specifically on youth and their physical and mental health and well-being, we have also worked on policy development, particularly related to alcohol. In this area we have looked at alcohol marketing and exposure among youth. Related to this area we have focused on capacity building for other community based organizations and how to strengthen academic and community partnerships for research and project implementation in low-resource settings.
We have also written quite a bit. I would have to count, but estimate that we now have co-written some 30 scientific papers over the years. We have also presented on our collaborations and capacity building strategies all over the world (i.e., Sweden, Denmark, UK, USA, Mexico, Korea, Thailand, Australia, Uganda, Malawi, South Africa). It's been a journey for sure; 10+ years & 10+ countries!
Here we are at one of my favorite places in Stockholm, Sweden -"Kulturhuset" (which translates to the "House of Culture")
I am so grateful!