Ivan’s Redefinition of Resilience

Ivan’s journey is a testament to resilience and triumph against staggering odds. He faced tough times after losing his parents and being rejected by relatives. He grew up in an institution in Northern Uganda, facing challenges for twelve years. But despite the difficulties, he turned his life around and became a symbol of hope and achievement.

“I lived in the institution for 12 years. It was a tough experience in the first year because of the pain of leaving behind my brother and sisters”

Despite the initial sorrow of separation from siblings, the institution offered him education, and the basic necessities. However, the institution brought its own set of challenges, with mistreatment and stigmatisation from caretakers, leaving Ivan feeling isolated and misunderstood. Yet, he found solace in denial, refusing to let the negativity define his life. “As time went by, the situation at the institution started changing with lots of challenges. I started experiencing abuse, insults and stigmatisation from our caretakers. I was made to feel that it was very unfortunate for me to lose my parents because they constantly reminded me that they were not the ones who killed my parents. I started feeling lonely since I was kept away from my relatives”.

Eventually, seeking further education led to his departure from the institution, catapulting him into a world of uncertainty. After leaving the institution, life was tough. He didn’t have a home and ended up living on the streets. “Life after the institution was not easy. I had no home, my sister couldn’t take care of me as she had a family of her own, so I had to live on the streets. There was no food, no shelter, no love and care whatsoever”.

Ivan had to work hard at low-paying jobs where he was sometimes treated unfairly. But he didn’t give up. His strong will and basic computer skills helped him land a job at a restaurant, giving him a small but important income.

But as he slowly succeeded, the institution was displeased with his accomplishments. 

Because of my loyalty and basic computer knowledge at that time, they agreed to pay me a monthly pay of UGX150,000. When the institution learnt of this achievement, they followed me and started threatening me, so I had to run for my life”. To stay safe, he had to run away. Arriving in Kampala with almost nothing. Luckily, he got a scholarship to study theology. He embraced who he was and persevered, earning a postgraduate diploma in theology as proof of his determined nature.

Today, he stands as a symbol of resilience and progress, running a small business and contributing as a project manager for a Christian-based organisation in Northern Uganda. Supported by newfound friends, community members, and the unwavering backing of his siblings, he emerged from hardship as a champion for mental health awareness. 

Ivan works hard to help people who often get left out. He believes in the importance of family and community for those who leave the care system. His – life and life experiences inspire him to build a world where everyone, no matter where they come from, feels welcomed, helped, and respected. “Some of the mental health challenges that youth with care experience face is trauma and depression due to what they go through in the care institution”.

His advice to caregivers and youth is to prioritize mental health awareness, provide spiritual and financial support to enable healing and self-reliance. 

Ivan is one of the young individuals who received training through the Youth Well project. This initiative, a collaboration between Child’s i Foundation and the Ubele Initiative, funded by the British Red Cross – Diaspora Humanitarian Partnership Programme, aims to foster enduring mental health support driven by young people. Its goal is to foster resilience and empowerment within vulnerable youth communities in Uganda. Additionally, the project aims to contribute to wider regional efforts in building resilience.