Christine Numisiima, MA Candidate

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Learning to play at AUNE

Since she was fourteen years old, Christine Numisiima has been interested in knowing why people behave the way they do. But when she set off to earn an undergraduate degree at Makerere University in Kampala, in her native Uganda, she wasn't sure where it would take her. "But my mom said, 'When you get there to university, you will know what to do.'"

And by now, she has a good idea of what she wants to do after earning her master's degree at Antioch University New England (AUNE)return to Uganda to work with children with developmental disabilities and, eventually, earn a PhD.

With her degree in community psychology from Makerere University in hand, Christine went to work for Friends of Children Association, a drop-in center, funded by USAID, for potential street children, where she had volunteered as a student. She worked on abstinence and behavior change, and she loved being able to help children to learn and to process their first impressions. "So it was hard, but it was interesting," she said.

She then worked for the German Foundation for World Population (DSW) Uganda, a youth advocacy and sexual reproductive health organization in Kampala. "In DSW I was involved in HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease prevention work under the Youth Truck program, a mobile youth project," Christine said.

A Helping Hand from the Ford Foundation

She had been looking for a good graduate program, and when the Institute of International Education officer in charge of Ford fellowships suggested AUNE, Christine liked what she saw. With the help of a Ford Foundation Fellowship, she started at AUNE in August 2010.

Christine began her first internship, with Monadnock Family Services, in September. There, she shadows case managers and family workers, working with adolescents, children and their families. Much of it involves play therapy. "We're using play therapy to help children heal, because children often aren't able to talk about their experiences like adults," she said. "As a therapist, I want to communicate with them at the level at which they are, and I think that can be done through play."

Her experience here will be relevant in Uganda, but it will be different, too, she said. "In Uganda we don't have some of the materials that you have here." Legos, for instance, aren't a familiar toy in Uganda. "So I will be using banana leaves to make my own dolls and to make balls."

You would think that play would come easily to a person like Christine, who has six brothers and sisters. But she's learning something new about herself. "I'm getting to know who I am, so that's useful," she said. "Over time I've really realized that I like to playand I probably don't play enough."

Next year she hopes to do a practicum working with college students at Keene State College. "I like the fact that you have to do an internship for two years, because you get the practical skills, and then when you get into the field, you already have those skills," she said.

When she isn't studying, she travels and meets with friends. One thing that has fascinated Christine, who didn't see snow until two years ago, is the ski jumping event at Harris Hill in Brattleboro, Vermont. Meanwhile, she's hoping to make even more new friends. "My life would have been hard if not for meeting these nice people," she said.

And as for her mother, she's told Christine: "You're following what you've wanted to do since you were young. "

January 2012