Passion for influence

A volunteer from Uganda who has been supporting Dementia Friends

A journalist turned volunteer is helping to change the world, reports Living with dementia magazine.

Florence Naluyimba with Alzheimer's Society staff.

'I love and appreciate what Alzheimer's Society does and I wish the same could happen in my country,' says Florence Naluyimba.

Florence grew up in Uganda and worked there as a journalist, reporting on areas such as health and science.

She came to the UK in 2015 to study for a master's degree in London. She also volunteered with three charities, including Alzheimer's Society.

'One of my last feature stories before moving was on dementia, and I had previously written about the relationship between HIV and dementia,' she says.

'I had an interest in the Society's work and was actually overwhelmed by the knowledge people here have about dementia.'

Amazing team

Florence became an administration volunteer for Dementia Friends, the social action movement to tackle stigma and change perceptions of dementia.

'I loved corresponding with different people and signing up new organisations,' says Florence.

She would deal with incoming requests from individuals and organisations who wanted Dementia Friends badges, posters, flyers and other items.

'I loved corresponding with different people, signing up new organisations and leaving the office with a cleared inbox,' she says.

'The team was amazing, as were the tea and treats all over the place!'

Exhausting fun

Florence was a Dementia Friend before being a volunteer. She has since become a Dementia Friends Champion, holding information sessions to sign others up to the movement.

She also featured as an extra in Alzheimer's Society's TV advert earlier this year, part of a campaign urging people to unite against dementia.

'We did a lot of retakes for just one scene - it was fun and exhausting,' she says.

'It was nice being part of something that raised awareness about dementia, targeting all sections of the public. 

'I love watching it from time to time and always have a sheepish smile, knowing I'm in the crowd.'

Cultural stigma

Florence says many people in Uganda either don't know about dementia or completely misunderstand it. People with the condition can be mistaken for many things, even as a 'night dancer' - someone believed to employ the help of the dead in destroying others.

'It's so easy to call a person living with dementia crazy or mad,' she says.

'Many have been beaten up and assumed to be cannibals or night dancers after losing their way and finding themselves in people's gardens, confused and frustrated as to why they are there.

'If people knew of the existence of dementia, maybe they would not go for the sticks and stones first.'

Florence is part of Uganda Alzheimer's Association, which works with local doctors to raise awareness of the condition.

A dedicated Florence hopes to influence global health issues, and it's hard to believe that anything could hold her back.

'I would love to manage a project, do field research and perhaps share my knowledge as an occasional teacher,' she says.

Next steps

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