The Journey of Life intervention for conflict-affected populations


TPO Uganda and Washington University at St. Louis investigated the effectiveness and implementation of the Journey of Life (JoL) program in Kiryandongo, Uganda. JoL addresses the ecologies of children and adolescents by working with caregivers, educators and community members to understand the importance of their support in the protection of children. It focuses on addressing key preventive and curative measures for mental health and psychosocial outcomes, including improving coping skills, meaning-making, social functioning, and social capital.

Study Design

Hybrid effectiveness-implementation quasi-experimental wait list control


Parents, teachers, school administrators, community members and local partners in conflict-affected areas


Refugee settlement camps in Kiryadongo, Uganda

Journey of Life (JoL) is a twelve-session psychosocial community-based intervention that enhances community and family supports, as it fits within layer two of the MHPSS pyramid. JoL has been developed by the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) to be applicable to community members from various backgrounds and literacy levels. The aim of this program is to engage parents, educators, and community members in child protection and the improvement of psychosocial support within their communities through reflection, dialogue, and action.

JoL is a community mobilization resource developed to raise awareness among community members on the psychosocial needs of vulnerable children. The intervention highlights the importance of engaging communities, because family and social supports are the best protection in response to distress, and attachment to a caring adult is a key protective factor for children. It provides an opportunity for individuals impacted by severe traumatic experiences, such as those who have experienced intergenerational displacement or recent refuge, to re-examine the way they support children in their communities. Enhancing psychosocial support with vulnerable populations, including children and survivors of torture, is vital to community recovery and overall well-being.

This intervention has the flexibility to be used in the pre-planning, planning, and implementation levels of community mobilization efforts. JoL is useful for any community member, but is recommended for individuals who interact with children. The series of workshops are divided into seven parts, incorporating understanding children’s needs, identifying children who need help, building on children’s strengths, and getting involved. The tools are designed for humanitarian staff working in emergencies, and include a collection of materials that guide staff in the integration of psychosocial and mental health support into cross-sector programming. Throughout these guidelines, the emphasis is on creating nurturing and caring communities.

Specific aspects of this intervention focus on community parenting, supporting grieving children, lessons from life, social connectedness, making communities safer, supporting children with disabilities, ending child marriage, ending human trafficking, and protecting children from abuse. The action tools are designed to engage community members in discussions about typical circumstances in their communities, including their personal experiences, and how they can help others.

I am now feeling better after having received some counseling from the group sessions. I have gained knowledge and it has changed my life. At first, when I had a quarrel with a neighbor, we never used to resolve the problems but now we have learnt to forgive because of what we have gained from the sessions. All in all, I feel better since am in amidst people and I am no longer alone.
Project Participant

Flora Cohen, MSW
Research Manager
Transcultural Psychosocial Organization

Justin Knox, PhD
Assistant Professor
Columbia University Department of Psychiatry

Lindsay Stark, DrPH
Assistant Dean of Global Programs
Washington University in St. Louis

Patrick Onyango Mangen, MSc
Chief Executive Officer
Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative

Sabrina Hermosilla, PhD
Research Investigator
University of Michigan Institute for Social Research


Research Brief: Implementing and Evaluating MHPSS Interventions in Uganda

Journey of Life Success Story

Study Protocol: Protocol for a Caregiver Psychosocial Support Intervention for Populations Affected by Displacement in Uganda