Last week we paid a visit to our partner Aide Katihoé Togo (ATK) in Lomé, a city that only last year saw the improvement of many infrastructures with a new airport, roads and hotels built for an extraordinary summit of the African Union on maritime security and safety. It was the first time such an event was held in Togo.
Our visit had the objective of sharing the work Sister Marie-Vivian and her team are doing at the Paul Louis-Renée health center and discuss the next steps for the project. Since our support will end in two years, it was important to talk about the challenges of setting up a clear path for sustainability.
The center is very well kept and organized, and Sister Marie-Viviane pays close attention to any detail which may improve its effectiveness. The place’s esthetics are also well kept, as new colorful curtains showed us. Sensitization activities to promote the center and to avoid stigma against mental health have been organized regularly and are helping people access the center more easily.
The strengthening of the personnel supervision, training and management have been identified as priorities. Dr. Salifou, one of the only three Togolese psychiatrists in the country and provider of clinical services and personnel supervision at the center, confirmed that there is a lack of professionals at a national level and that it is very difficult for the professionals available to fill the gaps.
To pursue the coordination between the stakeholders involved in the center we attended meetings with CBM and Handicap International. CBM has supported the center in organizing Association Vie Libérée (AVL), an association of people suffering from alcohol abuse. CBM is currently drafting a proposal for a national mental health program involving our center.
Handicap International has been supporting the center by setting up the cafeteria and by providing and the clinical supervision of personnel with a psychologist. Most importantly, however, they support by carrying out ergotherapy – which has proven to be a very effective tools aiding patient recovery. Donata, a Rwandese refugee in Togo since the genocide, is the social worker in charge of supporting patients in creating beadwork that they will soon be able to sell in one of the shop in the centre of Lomé. The Paul Louis-Renée Center has had a positive and fruitful collaboration with both partners!
What we love the most of our field visits is the final meeting organized with all of the center’s personnel. It is always refreshing to meet face to face with the people who really make the projects we support work. This time the meeting was very inspirational because of the stories some of the AVL patients told us. This enthusiastic group of mental health patients expressed their gratitude for the center and the people who supported them in their reintegration paths. Particularly touching was a young boy’s struggle with depression and how thankful he was for the support he received.
We are really pleased with Sister-Marie Viviane and all the personnel of the Paul Louis-Renée Center for their committed and tireless work that helps support people affected by mental illnesses to recover and return to their community with a new positive perspective. Keep up the good work!