Rebekah McKerley
Rebekah McKerley
Uganda, 2019 - 2021
Hello! I am living in Jinja, Uganda, for 2 years working with HEAL Ministries as a social worker. HEAL is a non-profit whose goal is family preservation. In this role, I will be expanding the social work program so that we can provide more resources to single-parent families. Read More About Rebekah →

Settling in at HEAL

At HEAL we have 80 kids in preschool, 65 in childcare, several women in our artisan program, and around 75 staff members. There are always a lot of people on the property, which means a lot of people for our social work department to help. I have so many ideas/dreams of things for the social workers to do at HEAL. I would love to see counseling increase, start grief therapy groups, social emotional groups for the preschoolers, education about the effects/preventions for childhood trauma, lessons on self-care, and so much more. I know a lot of these things will not happen over my two years here, but I am hopeful that I can work with the Ugandan social workers to implement some of them. I am excited to see HEAL grow over the next 2 years and see the ways we can provide more resources for the women and children that enter our gates. No organization is perfect and we definitely have ways that we could improve, but I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of keeping families together. The mothers we work with adore their children, they just need some help figuring out how to provide for their family.

I don’t have any pictures of the kids/staff at HEAL yet, and that is because I am getting to know them all first. We have a strict policy here that you must get to know people before you can take any pictures. I absolutely love this policy and I wish it was followed by everyone visiting countries in Africa. Way too often there are pictures on social media of adorable African kids posted by people who don’t even know the names of the children or have the child’s permission to post. Africans are constantly being exploited, so we have a policy at HEAL to try to prevent that from happening to our staff and kids.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending a day with another organization called Sole Hope. They are a local NGO working to educate and treat the problem of jiggers here in Uganda. Jiggers are a parasite that burrow themselves into the skin and lay eggs, spreading the number of jiggers that someone can have from 1 to hundreds. Jiggers are very stigmatized and are a huge issue here. Sole Hope has been educating Ugandans on how to prevent them and treat any patients they find who have jiggers. Every Thursday they have clinics where the staff goes out to a village, oftentimes a school/community center, and they remove jiggers, educate, and provide shoes. I’ve gone on a few clinics before, and I always really enjoy them. The staff are great and I love getting to see what other organizations here do.

HEAL does a great job of partnering with local organizations and referring people to other NGOs that could help if we are not able to help their needs. Several kids from a local orphanage come to HEAL for pre-school, and we send children with special needs to Ekisa. Jinja Pregnancy Care Center refers their single mothers and babies to us once the child is one year old. Partnerships are key to providing the best all-around care to the people of Jinja. I have seen a great improvement in organizations working together over the past 5 years that I’ve come to here, which is really encouraging to see.

Confidentiality is a HUGE part of social work, and therefore there is a lot that I do that I can’t share. It is important to keep a client’s information and story confidential. There will be times where I can share a story from the day, but my priority is and will continue to be the protection of the women and I children I work with. So just hang in there with me and know that I am working my best to safely explain what I am up to at work.

Here are a couple pictures of my apartment! I got curtains made and hung up some beautiful baskets on the wall. I’m getting a new/bigger bed made and also furniture for the porch so that I can sit outside and eat/read. I’ll post more pictures once they are done!



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