A big part of USP is the opportunity to travel and explore different parts of Uganda. Last weekend we traveled to Gulu, a town in Northern Uganda, to visit a several organizations engaged in alternative/ creative development and peace building initiatives. We had the opportunity to learn more about the region and the recent conflict, and enjoy the beauty and diversity of Uganda on our 8 hour drive.
Every culture and community is rich in its own artistic sensibilities and expression; it is not something that need be imported or taught. To be human is to be creative, and yet that is very often lost or ignored when conflict leaves communities broken, or the lack of resources leaves them struggling for basic needs. How can play, music and the creation of beautiful things empower and strengthen individuals and their communities through their own creativity? How can these things be a vehicle for healing, reconciliation or for poverty-alleviation?
The first organization we visited is called The Recreation Project (http://therecreationproject.org/). The Recreation Project uses play and outdoor recreation as tools in the healing process for young people in post-conflict areas. Our students had the opportunity to hear from the founder, Ben Porter, who talked about the genesis of the organisation and some of the theories and psychology of play in trauma healing. Two TRP facilitators, Charles and Goofy led the group in several activities showing how trust, problem solving, communication skills etc. are learned through play. We also had the opportunity to do several activities with some high school girls in the Climbing Club. Fun and challenging!
Never Have I Ever:
Crossing the River:
After The Recreation Project, we visited Amani Uganda. Amani is an organization that supports marginalized women in Africa (sister locations exist in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Liberia) through sewing as a means of economic development. The women learn how to sew and make beautiful, high-quality products that people all over the world are excited to buy. The sale of these products allows them to support their families and put their children through school. More than just a workplace though, Amani is a community of women committed to working together and supporting one another through difficult life circumstances; literally sewing peace in each others lives as they build a better future together. We heard some of the powerful stories from the women, and felt their pride and dignity as they showed us their work. For more information on Amani (or to purchase amazing crafts!) visit: http://www.amaniafrica.org/
We also visited Music for Peace, an organization aimed at using the power of music to foster peace. We met with Lindsay McClain Opiyo and Jeff Korondo, the couple who began and run the organization. They shared with us how Music for Peace came about, how they are currently helping local artists develop and produce their own music and are starting to provide music lessons for children in Gulu. We spent a fun evening together, talking, singing and eating some delicious Sankofa Cafe pizza. The link to the Music for Peace blog is here: https://musicforpeace.wordpress.com/
Meeting with Lindsay and Jeff (center, back, Lindsay in blue, next to Jeff with the guitar):
Creativity, play and music aren't the fist things one typically thinks about with regards to development in post-conflict areas, yet they are vital elements of what it means to be human and a important piece of healing. It was inspiring to learn more about these three organizations and the important work they are doing in Gulu.