Fred Ssewamala Awarded Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to Expand SUUBI (“Hope”) Program to Families in Uganda

September 4, 2008 @ 4:00 am

For Immediate Release

September 4, 2008

New York, NY – Dr. Fred Ssewamala, Associate Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), has been awarded a $720,000, three-year grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health.  The grant will be used to further develop an intervention program that creates economic opportunities for families in Uganda caring for children who were orphaned when their parents succumbed to the AIDS pandemic.

“Dr. Ssewamala’s research has important implications for communities around the world and in the U.S.,” says Dean Jeanette Takamura. “His ground-breaking work through the SUUBI program has empowered children and families at risk of impoverishment to have a hopeful and sustainable future.”

The intervention, called SUUBI-MAKA or “Hope for Families” in Luganda—one of the widely spoken languages in Uganda—is a novel intervention model focusing on the economic empowerment of families caring for children orphaned as a result of AIDS. The SUUBI-MAKA program has three key components:

  • It promotes monetary savings for educational opportunities for AIDS-orphaned children. Education has been shown to be a protective factor for mental health and sexual risk taking, operating both directly and indirectly through access to services.
  • It promotes microenterprise development (family-level income generating projects) to enhance economic stability, reduce poverty, and enhance protective family processes for these children.
  • It provides an adult mentor to children. Studies have long shown that an ongoing caring relationship with an adult is one of the most important sources of resilience in children and can protect their mental health when they experience stress and adversity.

“The SUUBI-MAKA expands our current program of research to the family as an important prevention resource for adolescent youth. It is important to note that even with the AIDS pandemic devastating most families in sub-Saharan Africa, the ‘family’ remains the main social unit around which individuals organize,” says Dr. Ssewamala.  “The family is the main source of care and nurturance and the main safety net in times of hardship. With that in mind, we need to, among other things, economically strengthen the family—as a social unit—so that it is able to provide care and support to orphaned children.”

The children in SUUBI-MAKA will receive a matched savings account (called a Child Development Account—CDA), training sessions on career planning, setting short-term and long-term career goals, and how to save money; and at least monthly mentorship meetings on life options and how to avoid risk behaviors. The children in SUUBI-MAKA will also receive specific training on microenterprise development and on how to start an income-generating project using part of their matched savings. The other part of their savings will be devoted to covering the cost of post-primary education which most orphaned children are unable to afford.

For more information or to interview Dr. Ssewamala, please contact Jeannie Hii at 212-851-2327 or