In 2016, 2017, and 2018, a team of two attending psychologists and three child and adolescent psychiatry fellows traveled to Moi University to participate in a training exchange through AMPATH with Moi University School of Medicine.
This was the third consecutive trip that the Albert Medical School of Brown University worked with the Tumaini Shelter for Orphaned and Street Children. Tumaini is an 18 bed residential shelter for boys 9-18. Each year, we have collaborated with program staff to offer staff training as well as group skills training for the boys.
For the staff training, we have used an empirically based parent training program called the incredible years, which focused heavily on positive supports, building schedules and routines, and setting expectations. Staff have been actively involved in thinking about how these approaches might change their interactions with the boys and also shared their pleasure in having training.
For the boys, we ran a group a week with different skills focus each time: self-esteem, managing anger, and some skills from dialectical behavior therapy focused on regulating emotions. There were some challenges with language and translation, but many of the older boys also spoke English and clearly enjoyed functioning as “junior leaders” for the “muzungus”. At the end of our last group meeting, we had pizza and juice, and the boys taught us their favorite dance. We learned quickly that the challenges these boys face are quite similar to the children that we work with in the US; handling trauma, managing strong feelings, and getting along with each other- but also that there is universal joy in sharing food and fun.
As a side training benefit, many of the US medical students working with AMPATH at the time expressed interest in attending our groups and so gained some incidental exposure to psychiatric intervention. We have a trip planned for 2020 and will do an additional set of groups during this trip.