StrongMinds is deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Wendy Andezu, who passed away on June 26th. Wendy joined the StrongMinds Uganda family in early 2019 as our Adolescent Project Manager. Drawing upon her experience working with young people on sexual and reproductive health, Wendy was tasked with creating and leading a first-of-its-kind adolescent group therapy program to serve the mental health needs of boys and girls in Uganda.
She quickly got to work, recruiting a team of twenty mental health supervisors and facilitators that possessed the right mixture of charisma, kindness, and empathy to appeal to young people. Her team, famously called the SWAG team, oversaw a successful first year of group talk therapy in 22 government schools, enrolling and treating more than 4,949 young people for depression. They went on to work with local Ministry of Education officials and key partner organizations (like Save the Children) to expand the program. To date, her team has provided provide depression treatment for over 9,000 adolescents and youth, as well as mental health education for an additional 6,000 parents, caregivers, educators, administrators, and community members. The future of adolescent mental health in Uganda is brighter in large part because of Wendy’s bold ideas and initiatives.
Wendy built a strong culture of unity and mutual support among her team. Under her leadership they celebrated weddings, anniversaries, graduations and even babies born in the team in style. She encouraged her colleagues to support each other during times of need and was famous for reaching out to fellow staff to check on their wellbeing. She was an energetic participant in meetings, always ready to break the ice or ask an insightful question. She was exemplary in her ability to address difficult issues respectfully, and with a strong people focus.
She loved her family and was a proud Nnalongo (mother of twins) with three beautiful children. She was quick to offer parenting advice or trade toddler behavior tips, and to empathize with her colleagues about the challenges of working from home with small children in the house.
Wendy was open and trusting about her life and the challenges she faced and was quick to build strong bonds with her StrongMinds family around the world. We loved her for it. We will miss her leadership, her voice, and her (occasionally mischievous) smile. StrongMinds is better because we had Wendy as a colleague and friend. We will forever miss her spark and we offer the deepest condolences to her family and loved ones across Uganda.4