Linda on her last visit to Uganda, sharing skills with local workers and mothers.
Linda is currently looking for sponsors to provide training to local staff in Uganda, to help support early mother-baby relationships in families traumatised by rape and abuse. If you are in a position to assist, please contact Baby in Mind.
Congratulations to Baby in Mind educator, Linda Davis, who this week received an award for the highest academic achievement for a NSW student graduating from a vocational education course in a health faculty. Linda’s journey has been an extraordinary one, marked by courage and resilience, over an almost 10-year period, after travelling to Uganda on a trip that would change her life.
It was almost 10 years ago that Linda first visited the Wakisa Home in Uganda. This organisation does some extraordinary work: supporting children – aged from 10 to 16 years old – who have become pregnant through rape. The aim of the home is to provide trauma support and counselling, education and parenting skills, and to help the girls reunite with the families or to find permanent foster care placements in their own communities. After seeing the work done by this organisation, Linda knew she had found something she wanted to dedicate herself to.
Linda spoke with the managers of Wakisa about what were the greatest areas of need. The girls, it seemed, enjoyed their schooling and responded well to counselling – but finding ways to help them bond with their babies and find their feet as parents was a constant struggle. The babies born were at high risk of abandonment, due to the trauma faced by their mothers, who are still children themselves. Part of the struggle, it seemed, is that they needed some resources and tools that took into account the trauma that the girls had faced, would be enjoyable, and that focused on the relationship rather than practical tasks of parenting.
Linda returned to Australia and began researching. She came across baby massage as an intervention that, at the time, seemed to show some promise in supporting early parent-baby relationships, and was exactly the sort of gentle, trauma-relevant intervention needed. She decided to undertake training as a Baby Massage Instructor so she could share her skills with the staff at Wakisa.
Unfortunately, without Linda realising, she had enrolled in a baby massage training course that was non-accredited and which did not give her skills in using infant massage education to support the relationship between parents and babies. Undeterred, Linda found Baby in Mind, and enrolled in the nationally accredited infant massage education course, and completed with flying colours in 2013.
With step one of her plan complete, Linda began working with families here in Australia to build up her experience. She made it clear from the outset that she intended to become a trainer, so she could train local staff in Uganda to deliver the program with the young girls on an ongoing, sustainable basis, and to contribute to their economic development.
But getting her experience in providing the First Touch Program to families was only the first hurdle. Linda, like many women of her generation, had dedicated her life to her family and did not come from a strong educational or academic background. So, at the same time, with the confidence of having completed a nationally recognised qualification in infant massage behind her, Linda enrolled in a tertiary course in Counselling, specialising in children’s and trauma counselling.
While completing her studies, Linda continued teaching infant massage here in Australia, and – at the same time – continued to raise funds and travel to Uganda on a regular basis to work with Wakisa. As well as having to re-do her infant massage qualification, gain her experience, spend countless hours raising funds to support Wakisa, and launch into a professional qualification at a mature age, Linda also had to grapple with all the “little” things that were essential to her goals: such as learning new computer technology, navigating social media, and meeting with politicians and international ambassadors…having never done many of these things before. Linda also became an active contributor to the Baby in Mind community, playing a key role in the development of a number of our initiatives, including the position paper on the use of Infant Massage with Children Overseas Orphanages.
Finally, graduating, from her counselling diploma last year, and becoming a fully registered Counsellor, it came as a complete shock to her this week when she was informed she had been recognised as the student from a health faculty in NSW, who gained the highest academic achievement in a vocational course in 2016.
But Linda has only completed part of her plan. This year, with her experience and qualifications behind her, she is commencing the steps to become a trainer with Baby in Mind. This will take another 12 – 18 months. Driven by an urgent sense of need faced by the children living at Wakisa, Linda is also currently seeking to raise enough funds to bring two staff from the children’s home to Australia, so that they can commence training to deliver this program straight away. All the while she continues to deliver the First Touch Program and helping all babies feel loved.
What makes Linda so extraordinary is that she is, in many ways, completely ordinary – and typical of so many of our educators and members. She is not wealthy. She doesn’t have ‘friends in high places’. She doesn’t have multiple letters after her name. And she certainly doesn’t seek fame, riches or recognition. She is a woman and a mother who, when confronted with a world that has so many terrible things happening in it, decided to do something good for others.
Congratulations Linda. Your strength and commitment to the well-being of families both here in Australia and overseas – and your determination in the face of so many challenges – is an inspiration. We are so proud to have been able to support you in your journey.