…from the perspective of the Norwegian team members, Mats Uldal and Bitta Wiese
By Bitta Wiese, Reg. Thought Field Therapist MNLH, Oslo, Norway
For Mats Uldal and myself it all started in June 2011. We had travelled from Norway
to attend the ACEP [Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology] conference in Reston, Virginia, and we split up to visit the different presenters/workshops and reported to each other afterwards. I chose to be the one visiting the session of Caroline Sakai and Suzanne Connolly, knowing about their work in the trauma committee and their studies on TFT in Rwanda.
These were exactly the kind of projects I had been dreaming of, being a co-founder and CEO of our brand new Mats Uldal Humanitarian Foundation. I also knew that Mats himself had wanted to start a foundation like ours long before I even knew what TFT was, and that he was eager to contribute in any way. After their brilliant presentation, I stood up and introduced myself and the foundation. Mats they knew already. There and then I eagerly suggested collaboration, and offered both Mats and me to come with them to the next project in Uganda in 2012.
12 months after the conference, our team was ready to go. We had frequent Skype meetings between USA, UK and Norway, led by Howard Robson, together with Joanne Callahan and Suzanne Connolly to plan and organize the trip. The team going to Uganda were Roger Ludwig from USA, Phyll and Howard Robson from UK and the two of us from Norway.
TFT Foundation USA suggested inviting Father JMV (Jean Marie Vianney), Celestine Mitabu, Deacon Augustin and Adrienne Nahayo from Rwanda to come, having experience previous studies in Rwanda. Howard would be in overall charge of the team and specific responsibility for the research study, and Phyll would be in charge of the trainings.
Our amazing host, Fr Peter, met us at the airport when we finally arrived at Entebbe at 4 am June 8th. He had been waiting for us since one am, but looked fresh and lively. He met us in the traditional African way; with a small delegation of his most trusted people – to greet us and escort us to our overnight accommodation in Kampala.
Fr.Peter and his companions then returned to the Airport to await the arrival of the rest of the team, from UK and USA due in at 7 am. The following morning we faced the 8 hour drive to the Catechists Training Centre, Nsenyi, in Kasese District. I can only imagine how tired they all must have been, but they insisted on meeting all of us in person. This was the very first time the team had met in person.
We also had a visitor whilst in Kampala; a lady who wished to meet us after talking to my husband in Norway and heard Mats and I were in Kampala. Her name is Mrs. Awere Phibby Otaala, she is married to the former Minister of Health. Phibby runs a womens’ organization called Hands of Hope. She brought her brother, Dr. Wafula Jackson with her, and after a short meeting they were so impressed by TFT and our mission that Jackson volunteered to come with us to Kasese, and proved to be a very popular and valuable member of the team. Not until the end of our stay did we get to know that he was a medical doctor for 8 years, he speaks 14 languages, and was a very young and fit 45 years old!
The first week of the project was extremely busy. Everything was very new to us, and diligence was essential. The team got together every evening to make sure all the days’ paperwork was in order, and to allocate duties. The first two training days were absolutely crucial to the success of the research study; we trained 36 carefully selected catechists to perform PTSD assessments and carry out treatments on all the study participants, 256 people.
In this respect, we can thank Fr Peter and his team of Catechists for making this possible, he is a great organizer. The logistics of organising 256 people to arrive on the correct date, day and time, from all over the district without the use of a telephone or email, was formidable. One group had to attend twice, the other three times, over a period of three weeks.
Secondly, Fr Peter managed to persuade the 36 catechist to leave their families throughout the whole study, which lasted for three weeks. A lot of tapping was done over this issue during the training, as the catechists and their families had made considerable sacrifices to support the study. A third issue was the translations of training material into the local language, which I naively had taken the responsibility of arranging – as a donation from the translators – through my husband’s contacts in Uganda.
As days and weeks went by, the work was “ready this weekend”, “soon ready” or just “being quality checked”, but the most important document – the training manual – never came. As we arrived in Nsenyi, it was too late, having no access to internet there. We managed anyway, with good help from Fr Peter and the Catechists – again.
The schedule was pretty tight, we travelled to trainings in three different districts and returned to Nsenyi to complete the study. Sundays were days off, but always busy. On Sundays we did enjoyable things like visiting the Bishop, giving interviews at the Kasese Guide radio, visiting the National Park, going to the border of Congo and visiting Fr Peter’s family close to the border. Roger and Howard even went for an early and strenuous hike to look for the chimpanzees, unfortunately with no luck!
The first week I don’t think any of us got much sleep, with all the new sounds. Cozy as it is though, it takes time to get used to wood-chopping at 4 am, goats screaming during the night, singing and laughing through thin walls and Mass outside your window before sunrise. Still, for me personally it was absolutely wonderful from day one.
Even without sleep I felt abnormally happy and energetic, like I was directly connected to the very source of energy. No hot water? Limited showers? An unfamiliar bed? A neck rest as pillow? So what? There was giggling and laughter around every corner, happy faces, singing and drumming every day. I felt like I had come to a sort of Heaven on Earth.
Not only were the locals a delight to be around. The work itself was rewarding and fun. Everyone in the team could multitask; each member could jump in and perform any task, whether it was a session during the training, registering results from the study or treating people who just showed up. The responsibilities were clear, but everybody in the team was heard and every problem or wish was welcomed as a subject for discussion. The events from day to day were well coordinated, and the team worked efficiently together.
Phyll and Howard had done a great job in advance with all the paperwork, they made sure that the system functioned at all times, and Roger was always well prepared and accurate in his work. I think – and hope – that Mats and I were a positive supplement to the team, with our enthusiasm, knowledge and new ideas. We also introduced Simplified TFT with AQT (Advanced Questioning Techniques) to the group; Mats Uldal’s new direction within TFT algorithms.
I am personally very proud of the achievements that were accomplished during our stay:
- We trained and certified 350 catechists, who now serve 500.000 people
- A big scale study of 256 people was undertaken – by 36 newly trained catechists
- Hundreds of people were treated outside the study, by the catechists and the team
- We introduced TFT to 550 girls at a girls’ school
- Mats and I treated and trained 12 traumatized women from the slum outside Kampala
- Mats and I introduced TFT to 145 criminal youths aged 12-18 in Kampala
Father Peter now wants us back in 2014 to do trainings on a national scale, for the benefit of the entire country. If we can raise the money, he will organize it.
For me this project was a greater success than I could have ever dreamed of. It was a better experience than I ever hoped for. I met more wonderful people than one ever could imagine. As the team got to know each other, we worked better together than I ever expected.
Thank you Joanne for letting us join the team. Thank you Suzanne for assisting during the planning. Thank you Phyll, Howard and Roger for being who you are, and for accepting the two peculiar Norwegians with a different culture. It was a pleasure working with you.
Thank you to our new friends from Rwanda, to Phibby and Jackson, to all the wonderful people we met in Bukangara, Hima and CTC Nsenyi. A special thought goes to Augustin, Africano, Sunday, Antoinette, Cornelius – and more than any to my new friend and spiritual leader; Father Peter! I will never forget his chuckling laughter, friendliness, gratitude, warmth and unlimited wisdom.
I am truly grateful and humble to have been given the chance to participate in this project. I will do all that I can to return to Nsenyi, whether it is for a follow-up on the study, another project, or just a friendly visit to Fr Peter. God willing, it will not take long.