Memory programme

Memory work in at the core of everything we do. It began as a direct response to the needs of vulnerable children, primarily those orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Schools, clinics, hosptials and other NGO and community based organisations identify children and youth with problems and refer them to Sinomlando for help.

During the sessions the children explore aspects of their family history which have often been ignored or silenced. With the help of trained facilitators and a variety of exercises and games, they are encouraged to tell their story, ask questions and express emotions such as sadness, anger, worry and happiness.

Memory Boxes

An important part of the programme is decorating and filling a Memory Box – an old shoe box is ideal! Into it goes any item the child wants to keep: photographs of parents who have passed on, a family tree, the words of a song their mom used to sing to them, a scarf or other item she used to wear, and so on. They’re also encouraged to keep exercises completed in the sessions, which include body mapping, river of life, hero book, and unfinished business.

These memories give the children a sense of where they came from, so they don’t feel they have been cast adrift in the world. Even though they may not have a family now, they had one in the past and it is an important part of their identity. At the end of the process, they have an object they can keep as a constant reminder of who they are and where they have come from.

We also encourage older family members or the children’s care givers to participate. Not only is it important for them to understand the process, they can often help children recover lost memories and fill in gaps in the story. They can also benefit from going through the process themselves!


So successful was the programme that it was extended to anyone who is haunted by memories of the past. This includes refugees and victims of violence or injustice.

Many refugees have suffered terrible trauma, such as the death of a child or close family member. They have lived with extreme fear and undertaken long and dangerous journeys (often on foot) to safety. Now they face all the challenges of building new lives in a strange country and integrating with local communities.

River of Life

One of the most powerful exercises is to depict one’s life as a river, beginning at birth and moving forward.  On one side of the river are listed all the good/positive things that have happened. On the other side go all the bad or negative events. At the end of the river, the participants write down their dreams and goals for the future.