Leonard is a 26-year software engineer, passionate about the community, mental health and anything tech-related. I am also the founder and team leader of Broken Vessel, an initiative focused on mental health.

I started Broken Vessel as a way to give back to the community but also because mental health is particularly not given as much attention as it should in Uganda.

I was raised by a single mother and when I was 12 years old, our house caught fire which I was later to discover, the trauma from that experience was the trigger to the panic attacks I constantly had. Unfortunately for me, this situation with the panic attacks is something I had accepted as being normal and had endured for long. It was until this one day when I was rushed to the hospital with what seemed like a heart attack and instead the doctor said it was just a panic attack. How did I live so long with such a condition and yet fail to recognize it? This made me realize just how many people live and suffer quietly with conditions for which they can be helped.

I always knew I wanted to do something to contribute towards helping the community, but never knew what that could particularly be. The year 2018 pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was in a bad place, with my career, and relationships. My mother got diagnosed with a serious health condition that pushed me in a dark corner. Here I was, witnessing my mom’s suffering and I just didn't know how to deal with it. Just learning of my mum’s diagnosis hit me really hard but what of the people that have been diagnosed with far worse conditions or have been molested or have lost loved ones? It was then that I decided that even though my dream wasn’t as vivid, I just had to start.

It took a while to come up with the concept, the mission and even the logo of Broken Vessel itself.  We are all broken in one way or the other yet we choose to reach out and help others even in our brokenness. I had to quit my job so as to focus my energies and full attention on this dream. I only had to look within myself to see what I could offer. My initial thought was to use technology to address mental health but after feedback and guidance from various psychologists and psychiatrists, I refined my idea to empowering people.

What pushes me to do this every day is the fact that I have been helped before and I want to help someone else too. I also don’t want to just exist, I want to live a life that inspires others to do something not just for themselves, but for those around them. I want to leave a legacy that does not just benefit me but everyone I come in contact with and this pushes me to wake up every day even on the hard days because I am reminded of why I started in the first place. As a Christian, when my time on earth is done, I want God to smile on me and tell me well done.

My dream is for people in five years to embrace mental health and to know it's ok to look for help. But also for mental health to be prioritized in the national budget. I can say I am on my way to achieving it, so far we have over 100 volunteers who have believed in what we are trying to do and have given of their time and resources, 30 assignments, meaning that 30 of our volunteers are helping and following up on people. When the numbers increase, we shall know that people are actually seeking help. I also want Uganda to have a National Suicide Help Line. I once called police to notify them of someone who I knew was trying to commit suicide and the officer who picked up told me off that I should only use the helpline again only for  ‘serious’ cases. I was hurt and angry, but I later realized that these people are trained to fight physical battles and not the emotional or psychological ones that can’t be seen.

My advice to young people is that they should start looking for what they can offer to help someone else, instead of looking at what is in it for them. Life will be much better if we all looked out for one another.

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