Written by Luke Stamps, Programme Assistant at the CSC who made a visit to meet our Commonwealth Professional Fellows.

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s 2018 Professional Fellowship Programme drew applications from a wide range of organisations spanning the entirety of the Commonwealth. These included environmental conservation, Nursing and Midwifery.

One of these organisations was the East London NHS Foundation Trust.  Recognised as a centre of excellence for mental health care, innovation, and improvement, they invited  the CSC’s Programme Officer, Christine Odro and Programme Assistant, Luke Stamps on 21 June 2019 to meet some of the 2018 Commonwealth Professional Fellows to see what fantastic work they have been involved in.

Meet some of our Commonwealth Professional Fellows

Jude Owonda, from Uganda, is a mid-career mental health professional. Confident in his purpose, Jude shared wonderful stories from his life and journey in mental health in his home country. In his career, he progressed quickly, and has worked in a variety of different areas, including addiction, acute psychiatry, and child psychiatry.

During his time in London, Jude was impressed with the technology and efficiency of the mental health systems in the UK. This has inspired Jude to utilise his new found knowledge and experience encouraging him to share and implement these in Uganda when he completes his scholarship.

Gladys Nansubuga, from Uganda, has a strong drive towards changing mental health attitudes and stigmas in Uganda. Gladys already has a huge range of experience, including family therapy, giving talks in preventing the occurrence of mental health issues, advocacy in the local community as well as substance abuse and managing a forensic unit.

One of her highlights was her visit to a prison in Kent. This allowed Gladys to experience first-hand how mental health services run parallel to the criminal justice system. In general, she was particularly struck by the many differences in the culture of mental health in Uganda compared to the UK. More specifically, Gladys noticed the importance of a strong security system in mental health settings. This observation is something that she will take back to Uganda with her.

William Ukura, also from Uganda, is a ward manager and supervisor and a registered nurse. In 2006, William had been appointed by the Health Service Commission to Butabika Hospital. He too strives to end the stigma towards mental health and seeks to unearth tools to tackle this systemic issue.

William believes that the Fellowship programme has nourished his ability to reduce mental health stigma. Even though William is fully aware that this is a systemic and societal issue, his time at East London NHS Foundation Trust has given him the ability to see a different system, showing him hope for  change in his home country.

Our fourth fellow at East London NHS Foundation Trust is Sabiha Jahan, a Clinical Psychologist from Bangladesh. During her time, Sabiha got involved in the work of the trust, attending a variety of workshops, training, site-visits as well as gaining a wealth of practical experience. Sabiha believes that shadowing the lives of mental health professionals in the UK has allowed her to gather a unique comprehension of mental health work, in a different context to her home. Also, Sabiha is eager to summarise her journey in the UK with a presentation which will be delivered towards the end of the fellowship programme. We are thrilled that Sabiha has exhausted all the opportunities available to her.

Making their communities better

It was particularly evident from the  interesting conversations that these four fellows had an enriching experience at the East London NHS Foundation Trust. We are proud of the fellows unwavering dedication to making their communities better equipped and informed about mental health. We have no doubt that Jude, William, Gladys and Sabiha will become pioneers in mental health care. We are proud to have them as ambassadors of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s Professional Fellowship Programme.