My name is Steven Iwuamadi. I am one of the longest serving and oldest staff members at Amaudo. I followed Sister Rosalind Colwill when she moved from Uzuakoli Leprosy Centre to establishe the Centre for Mentally Ill Destitutes at Itumbauzo in 1989.
I still remember the day we travelled together in a vehicle which conveyed us from Uzuakoli to Itumbauzo. We passed along the muddy, rough road to the remote Community of Okepedi and then further. We had to trek along a bush track to a virgin forest where Sister Rosalind said to us "this is the site for where the centre has to be established". We left and camped in an old, dilapidated house which was once used for health care. It was in this old house that we stayed until the first building was constructed at Amaudo. Only then could we come in and settle at the centre and begin the actual rehabilitation of people with mental illness.
We were given orientation by Sister Rosalind Colwill on how to collect people with mental illness from the streets. We were also trained on skills in caring for people with mental illness.
The uniqueness of the training was that we were informed by Sister Rosalind that we were going to live together with people who were mentally ill and homeless while caring for them at the centre. We were informed that Amaudo will run like a community where we will work, play, worship and eat together with people who have a mental health problems. Ordinarily, no one would dare do live with someone with mental illness for fear of violent attack.
At first, I did not believe that someone with a mental illness who has lived on the street for several years could be well again. But as we brought the first two residents to the centre for rehabilitation and started some social and psychological rehabilitation, I began to see signs of recovery. And finally, they became stable and joined us to do what we were doing in the community. I was amazed to see this transformation. It was also incredible when they remembered their home and families which enabled us to trace where they had come from and plan for their reunion with family and friends. Sometimes home tracing is not an easy task and of course, the entire process of rehabilitation is very challenging but with patience and love, someone with a mental illness finally gets well. The rehabilitation is climaxed with the reunion with the family. Some families have almost forgotten about the resident because of many years of homeless and disconnection with family but are shocked and delighted when they see them again.
I have worked in Amaudo for many years and have witnessed the rehabilitation of many residents, their reunions with families and I have followed them up in the community so know how they continue to receive monthly mental health care from the community mental health clinic nearest to them.
I can boldly confirm that people who are mentally ill and homeless can be treated and reunited with their families, they can live in the community. People who are mentally ill and homeless are not possessed by demons because I have lived with them and they never, at any time, manifested any demon. Instead as they receive care and support they become well again. People with mental illness are not destructive but they need proper treatment and support.
Caring for people with mental illness at Amaudo has indeed changed my life.
Steven Iwuamadi, House Parent
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