Where to start, the interview. I sat waiting anxiously for the interview, thoughts racing; was I dressed right, what questions were they going to ask, should I have prepared more, what am I doing here… It’s true what they say, our minds can make mountains out of mole hills.
I was pleasantly surprised! There the Friendship Bench team arrived with friendly smiles and warm greetings, phew! In the interview it felt like I was talking to old friends, I don’t remember most of what I said because they made it conversational, as opposed to me with my inner thoughts ‘is this a trick question’ what is the ‘right’ response they want. In no time at all we were done and I was given my travelling letter and training schedule.
As I recovered from the interview nerves so started training nervousness, it was great we started off the day early and so I was quickly put at ease when I arrived at the venue and was greeted by the Friendship Bench Grandmothers and a few Grandfathers. Excitement was in the air, everyone eager and happy to be part of this training.
After a Circle Kubatana Tose round where everyone introduced themselves and shared how they were feeling we went straight into the first module which was ‘kufungisisa’ the Shona term for depression and anxiety. I was enlightened! I didn’t know that this disease was so common, imagine 1 in 4 people will suffer from a CMD at some point of their life! Neither did I realise it could affect anyone, whether young or old, high income or low income; this was a needed eye opener. We also really came to understand how necessary a community-based intervention like the Friendship Bench is for all of us to have access to.
Training progressed well, each day was a new learning day and trainers kept checking in on if we we’re grasping the concept, especially the problem-solving steps at the core of the intervention. Their constant check ins meant the morning evaluations were a time to refine what we learnt the previous day and not something to get anxious over. These nerves are a constant theme in my life!
Then the role plays, this was a push I didn’t know I needed but I am unbelievably grateful for them! I went from being the little shy introvert to taking stage, my confidence went up a notch and the trainers reaffirmed that what I was doing was right. I’m sure the trainers recognized I needed a confidence boost because on day 5 I had to give a presentation on mental health. Something I would never have managed before but I did it! And I enjoyed it! AND, I now know I am capable of more than I think.
Final day of training, day 8 of 8, no one wanted the training to end, we had spent an intense past 7 days learning together, sharing stories and soaking up the Grandmothers experiences. Who knew learning could be enjoyable. We danced, laughed, played games and took a lot of pictures! Although it was great to pass and get our certificates it was also so sad to be closing off our training, but equally underlying excitement to be able to get out into the community and let people know that mental health care is accessible and available for all.
My heartfelt thanks goes to Mbuya Chengetayi, Mbuya Bernice, Mbuya Charmaine and Mbuya Tendayi, because of you guys, I can now be called a Mbuya too!