Sandplay for orphaned, homeless children in Uganda

Report written by Lisbet Myers Zacho, Jungian Analyst IAAP, DSAP, February 2020

Introduction

In 2018 UK Jungian Analyst Ian MacCabe made a plea for supporting the KASA Programme in Kabale, Uganda. I and a group of four other experienced Danish sandplay therapists responded to this plea, because it just so happened, that we had unused surplus of both insight, experiences, opportunity and resources…

In response to the great influx of people to Europe (and Denmark) from the Syrian Civil war some years ago I had initiated a large volunteer project with a group of Danish sandplay therapists to ease the plight and pain of refugee children at a large Red Cross Refugee camp and other places in Denmark.

We were inspired by the presentations, books and writings of Eva Pattis’ work with groups of children in dire circumstances.

The intention of this initiative was to provide these children different opportunities to process their awful experiences, that had scarred their minds and souls.

All such projects were however closed down by the then (rightwing) Danish government, including ours after only 2 years.

We had during this time learned much about sandplay in groups of traumatized children, and we had some equipment, but nowhere to use neither experiences nor our collection of objects.

Thus, when we learned of Ian MacCabe’s appeal for supporting the KASA Programme in Kabale, Uganda, we were able to respond and this is how I and a team of four other trained sandplay therapists came to visit KASA for a week In October-November 2019.

Background

The KASA kid-programme is based in Kabale, Uganda, and is founded and presently directed by Kanyesigye Kedrace. Kedrace is a social worker, graduated from the Christian University of Kabale.

In 2010 Kedrace was qualifying her studies to become a social worker. She was keen to do something about the increasing number of street kids roaming about in the town, sleeping under cars or bushes, eating out of rubbish bins. Desperate children down to the age of 3-4 years, stealing and surviving as best they could. Many were orphans, who had lost their parents due to aids, narco-related violence, prostitution or sheer poverty.

So she rented a small house and befriended some children, invited them to a meal and a bed. She became their guardian angel. Since 2010, Kedrace’s activities have grown and she has by now seen more than 60 children through a decent childhood, in the sense that they have been living at KASA and undergone schooling and social training, as well as being fed and cared for.

At the time of writing this application, there are 32 children of all ages living under severely limited conditions, most often sleeping 3 to one bunk bed. Some of the children have individual sponsors, which enable them to go to school and some even stay in boarding schools.

The programme relies on volunteers – mostly unemployed social workers but also teachers and priests take turns in their spare time.

The programme is supervised by a board of various people from churches and the university, and it survives on monetary donations.

My impression from my visit was of a very gentle and warm atmosphere, despite the crammed space and limited facilities. At mealtimes there are not enough chairs for everyone to sit at the same time, so many sit with their plates on the ground outside or on the floor. Even so, the older children assist the younger ones, and there is much laughter, music, dancing and singing and curiousity.

The initiative

In 2018 I responded to an enquiry from UK Jungian Analyst Ian MacCabe, who had been doing work at the University in Kabale. He had encountered the KASA programme where he had introduced sandplay and donated the production of 17 sandtrays.

The experiences we had gained from working with refugee children in refugee camps in Denmark 2016-2017, and how well such heavily traumatized children respond to sandplay, gave us the idea that sandplay might also alleviate the hurts of the KASA children. Also, we had spare equipment we could bring to KASA.

So five of us who have had much experience with sandplay got together and planned a week-long journey to Uganda in close collaboration with Kedrace.

We settled on a plan where affiliated social workers and others to KASA (26 people) received a four-day intensive training in facilitating sandplay in groups. In addition, we spent two days working with the 32 children presently living at the KASA house.

For this visit, we applied for money from various different national funding schemes as well as from private donations. The association behind the original refugee-children initiative donated a modest sum as well as equipment. The rest, approx. 80% of our expenses, was covered by the group itself.

Since our visit, Kedrace and the adults who took part in the four day intensive programme have taken further steps: they are facilitating sandplay for groups such as traumatized elders in the community, they are hosting study groups in order to facilitate further study and they are continuing the work with the children living at KASA. For a view of how this visit was seen from KASA’s perspective, please read Kedrace’s report, attached.

In response to an invitation by KASA, the group of Danish sandplay therapists would like to return to KASA to follow up this first visit and provide further training, support the local facilitators and augment their sandplay library and equipment. For this, however, we need to secure a larger grant than was possible the first time around, and this is why we are applying for a grant from IAAP.