The Heroes Journey Program in action

Tutapona is a Christ-centered organization that provides quality mental health services to some of the world’s most conflict-affected communities.

In Adjumani, Northern Uganda, Tutapona operates The Heroes Journey, a child-focused, Post-traumatic growth program offered to children who have been displaced due to armed conflict, utilising child-friendly activities such as games, stories, songs, play and art. The aim of the curriculum is to improve the mental, emotional, behavioral, relational, and spiritual well-being of its participants.

In February 2021, Tutapona ran this 9-session program in Adjumani consisting of 50 participants. Many of these participants also benefitted from individual therapy sessions, using sand trays and other play-based activities. Children who can benefit from additional support are identified through Tutapona’s staff, and the Screen for Post-traumatic stress syptoms (SPTSS), for further intervention.

Because of Tutapona’s partnership with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), their staff are able to effortlessly get to some of the remote locations where they serve. Instead of spending a full day or more driving to the north of Uganda, a quick flight puts them and their supplies where they need to be. During the month of February, MAF flew Tutapona staff to Adjumani to conduct and participate these Heroes Journey Sessions.

Testimonies from the children who attended the Heroes Journey Program

My name is Simon, I am 10 years old. One morning in 2016, I was in my village in South Sudan, playing with my siblings. All of a sudden, I saw a bus running at high speed and then a group of military soldiers appeared and started shooting. We ran for our safety but after it became calm in the afternoon, we came out of hiding and found many dead bodies lying in the roads. I felt terrified. Since then, I suffered from nightmares and being afraid. I felt terrible and unsafe but after I enrolled in Tutapona’s Heroes Journey program, I was able to share my past experience with my teacher. I have learned how to work with my emotions by deep breathing, muscles tensing and positive self talk. Now I can sleep well. Thanks to Tutapona and all the people they work with, I can now forget my past and focus on the future.

My name is Veronica and I am 12 years old. Previously, I feared crowded places. I feared talking to strangers, and I felt ashamed standing in front of people speaking. But now I don’t feel ashamed anymore because the Heroes Journey Program has empowered me to be a Hero! My appreciation goes to Tutapona and their staff. May God bless you all.

My name is Elijah. I am 12 years old. In my village in South Sudan, just one year ago in 2020, my father was coming back from work in the evening. He reached the gate when someone came and attacked him with a panga (machete) and cut him badly. That person ran away leaving my father bleeding and even after he was taken to the hospital, he died. I felt terrified. Anytime I remembered this, I felt sad, but now I have learned how to work with my emotions through the Heroes Journey Program, using deep breathing, muscle tensing and use of positive self-talk, which helps me feel better.

*** Names and locations have been changed to protect identities.

Tutapona - Children graduating from the Heroes Journey ProgramAbout Tutapona’s Programming

If you’ve ever suffered the effects of trauma or know someone who has, you know; we’re all affected in the same basic ways. Without mental health support, people who experience a traumatic event will fall into one of three groups:

The first group will never recover. The traumatic event will continue to cripple their lives.

The second group will struggle through and work themselves back to their pre-trauma state.

But the third group is special. After a traumatic event, they embark on a new and different path because of their experience. This path takes them further than they ever could have gone had they not experienced their adversity.

This third group actually grows through the process of recovering from trauma. You can call this Post-traumatic Growth. You can also simply call it ‘healing’.

Everyone in this third group possesses certain qualities. They’re kind, they have hope, they’re courageous, they’re able to forgive, they’re thankful. And they have faith in a Divine Creator.

These are the ‘powers’ Tutapona teaches about in the Heroes Journey program. They believe that with the right tools, everyone can grow.

Staff of Tutapona arriving fresh in Adjumani with Pilot Gregory VineHow MAF Helps

Adjumani is located in the far Northern part of Uganda, about 436 km from Kampala which is a long and tiresome journey by road. Travelling with MAF Uganda’s shuttle flights makes travelling easier, and Tutapona’s time more effective.

Walter Okello, Tutapona’s Driver/Operations Assistant in Adjumani, stated ‘‘Its good you have come by air with MAF from Kampala. Now you’ll get enough time to participate and conduct the programs. It’s also a good thing you haven’t arrived tired because the journey was shortened.’’

One of the staff of Tutapona overheard a child in the program ask, “How did these people of Tutapona reach here in time for our program yet they traveled in the morning from Kampala and the journey is a long one??!’’

Tutapona is extremely thankful for the support, the safe travel and the partnership with MAF.

Report by Sheilla Ampumuza, Operations Manager, Tutapona Uganda
Edited by Jill Vine