Article Published: 10/19/2022
On Oct. 4, NBCC was honored to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union Southern Africa Regional Office (AU-SARO). With this MOU, both parties commit to improving the availability of mental health services in the region. This exciting step sets the stage for continued progress and collaboration between the organizations.
His Excellency, Ambassador David Claude Pierre represented the AU-SARO in signing the MOU. Kylie Dotson-Blake, president and CEO of NBCC and Affiliates, signed on behalf of NBCC. The signing was conducted virtually between NBCC headquarters and the AU-SARO office located in Lilongwe, Malawi. AU-SARO and NBCC senior staff were in attendance. Also participating were Monalisa McGee-Baratta, Chair of the NBCC Board of Directors, and Rhonda Bryant, Chair of the NBCC Foundation Board of Trustees.
“We are delighted to have been able to build this partnership and relationship with NBCC,” said His Excellency, Ambassador Pierre. “This partnership will build on the existing initiatives on youth mentorship and counseling within the region, which will help offset some of the socioeconomic challenges that the youth are facing on the continent. . . . I am hopeful that this partnership will build synergies and more effective engagements in mental health while also expanding those engagements to greater avenues.”
The objectives of the MOU are to collaborate in the expansion of counseling and guidance services in Africa through the AU and its partners and through the collaborative implementation of NBCC’s Mental Health Facilitator (MHF) program. This expansion of mental health training and services in Africa will begin with a pilot program in three AU-SARO member countries. After completing this pilot program, NBCC and the AU-SARO will evaluate data to investigate next steps forward. NBCC staff will visit Lilongwe later this month to begin planning the next steps in this collaboration.
“This partnership will significantly expand the Mental Health Facilitator program’s reach, thanks to His Excellency’s and the AU-SARO's belief in the program,” said Dr. McGee-Baratta. “This MOU and partnership is the kind of engagement that the NBCC Board of Directors is proud to support. We know the MHF program will be guided to great success following His Excellency’s leadership.”
“The Foundation is aware of His Excellency’s dedicated investment in the welfare, including the mental health wellness, of youth, and we are proud to support those efforts,” said Dr. Bryant. “You can imagine the excitement of the Foundation Trustees when we realized this partnership was going to move forward through this MOU. It has the capacity to allow the Foundation to meet its mission with the youth of AU-SARO, and hopefully work toward this mission in greater Africa.”
The MOU is the result of many years of collaboration between NBCC and AU-SARO. A previous MOU was signed in 2013. One outcome of this collaboration was a 2019 conference, titled “Conference on Improvement of Mental Health Services in SADC (Southern African Development Community) and COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Regions.” The 2-day event allowed participants from across the region; the World Health Organization; the United Nations Development Plan; UNICEF; and the Guidance, Counselling, and Youth Development Centre for Africa to take part in numerous presentations regarding mental health in Africa and to network and educate one another and NBCC leadership and staff in attendance on challenges and successes of mental health service programs and implementation in Africa.
The MHF program trains people outside the field of mental health to reduce stigma, identify those in need of assistance, and access appropriate services. NBCC’s Global Capacity Building Department has collaborated with local organizations to hold MHF trainings in 35 countries, including the African countries of Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. In a 2016 research study, Mental Health Facilitator (MHF) Service Implementation in Schools in Malawi, Africa: A Strategy for Increasing Community Human Resources, participants from school-based MHF trainings in Malawi cited multiple positive outcomes. We are ecstatic to have the honor of collaborating with AU-SARO.
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