ANDRE’S STORY

I started to become ill at the age of 8 when I was in Primary 1. In fact it really began before that as I was always a sickly child. I was the 6th of 12 children and my mother had not enough food during her pregnancy or when breastfeeding me. I was small, often ill and always hungry.

When I was 8 years old my parents thought that I had measles, they took me to the hospital but after 6 months there and different treatments I was still sick. It was then that I was diagnosed as having a mental illness and taken to a place, run by nuns, who could help with this type of illness. I was given medication and stayed there for 3years. I returned to my home but only briefly as I was soon ill again. I was 17 years old by the time I left the nuns. I had had no schooling during that time and little contact with my family who did not understand me. I was very troubled and did not know just what was wrong with me.

When I was 17 I returned to my family home and my eldest brother looked after me. I started to go to school again and went all the way to senior 6 and then later to university. I found I could not stay on good terms with my family, but it was at this stage that the Genocide occurred and I fled with other neighbor to Congo. I was restless and at the same time withdrawn I did not talk to anyone and spent time alone in the camps. I was eventually taken to a special place for those who were traumatized, and was looked after separately.

When I returned home after the Genocide I went on with my schooling for a time but dropped out of my accountancy training in the third year as I did not have enough money. I was at a loss. My major interest has always been music and I began to try to write songs and teach young people singing and drumming. I liked doing this and was good at it. I became a youth leader for a local NGO and stayed with them for 3 years. I became more settled in my life and felt well. The doctor only gives me pills once a year now and it has been like this for many years.

I met Sam through my youth work and we helped each other over the years. He was another safe and important part of my life.

When he told me he wanted to form NOUSPR I supported him and immediately said I would form a group. I have been with him since the beginning. I now earn my living at one of the local hotels where I sing and play music, but I consider my most important work is here to show those the world believes are mad that they are not mad and that they can recover and support each other to fight against the discrimination and stigma which ruled my life as a child.

I speak for others with the local authorities; I help them to get treatment and medication and I also help with practical things like clothes and food. Over the years I have trained a number of patient experts to assist the sick and ill, they work with me to help others. As a group leader I support Sam in any way I can, the hard life I have passed through helps me to understand some of their problems. Sometimes I find that the best help I can offer is through music and singing so we do this often at our NOUSPR gatherings.