I first heard about Amaudo from my church minster who knew of Ros and told me about Amaudo’s work. I was looking for a chance to do something useful overseas post-university and was drawn to both the hands-on nature of volunteering at Amaudo and the relative informality and flexibility.
The work was quite hard, which was part of what made it such a formative experience for me. I started off marketing batik and tie-die textiles to the ex-pat community in South East Nigeria. When that proved to be of limited value and not very sustainable, Ros asked me to coordinate the reopening of the Helping Hands nursery school in the village, and to restart the soap-making cooperative to generate income. It’s fair to say I had limited relevant experience! There was quite a difference in approach between me and the villagers, which involved a big learning curve for me, but in due course we found a good way of working together.
I came to like morning and evening chapel best. I liked that as much as possible is communal - eating, praying, chores, football. I lived at Amaudo 2 and I liked the late afternoon when various people just sat on their bench outside their house and... just sat. It was very liberating and taught me that you don’t have to constantly be doing something or achieving something, which I think most people back in the UK find hard to put into practice.
I was very touched by Nwadi at Amaudo 2, and grew very fond of her. She was filled with simple joy and had an enormous and irrepressible smile which always made me smile :) I was hugely moved by the discharge event when I went back to Amaudo for the 25th anniversary in 2014. Sitting in the chapel in the evening while family members were trained in how to look after their relative and Amaudo residents were presented with their leaving gifts was so special, and the culmination of so much that Amaudo works for. I also felt extremely proud and happy that Amaudo was still thriving and succeeding in its very challenging mission under Nigerian leadership and more than a decade after Ros had had to leave.
Amaudo is unique, and effective, and a great example of what is possible in the field of mental healthcare in Africa. Such a great project!