Monday, 2 April 2018

The Gulu Weekend: Insights

Gulu Town 
USP recently traveled to Gulu, a town in northern Uganda, the hub of AID and development work in a region that has recently come out of period of significant conflict and violence. We learned about the 20-year conflict with the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), which only ended in 2007, and which saw many Acholi children abducted and communities fractured and displaced by the violence. There are a host of individuals and organizations committed to the work of rehabilitation as the region engages in the slow and painful process of recovery. We had the privilege of visiting three unique organizations, and learning about their different responses and approaches to rebuilding; The Women's Advocacy Network, The Recreation Project and Music for Peace.

Students in the coaster, traveling north to Gulu!
"Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable," says one African proverb that speaks to the power and support of community, which we saw and experienced learning about The Women's Advocacy Network. WAN is a non-governmental organization that helps over 500 women who have have returned from captivity, and struggle to reintegrate back into society. Their mission is to "To seek reintegration, reconciliation, and justice for war-affected women." Evelyn Amony and Victoria Nyanjura (founders and leaders of WAN) spoke to us about about the program and how it brings together many war-affected women in seeking justice and reconciliation. WAN provides support to the women on multiple levels, the first is through small localized support groups, that meet together regularly. The women also have opportunities to get involved in income generation projects provides them with the ability to support themselves and their children. WAN also advocates for acknowledgment and accountability for the women, for the atrocities that occurred during the war. It is a powerful example of people coming together and working together to support, encourage and advocate for one another. 

Evelyn and Victoria share about Women Advocacy Network
"If you want to go fast, go alone. 
If you want to go far, go together." ~African Proverb
TheRecreation Project (TRP) uses a more physical and mind-engaging approach to post-war reconciliation, inspiring youth to overcome fear and patterns of war through play and team building activities. Facilitators, Oliver, Janet, Deo and Godfrey, led the students through many of the activities, not just telling them, but showing them how powerful these trust and community-building activities can be. The project is evolving as the development landscape of Gulu changes and now includes an economic outreach program teaching modern piggery farming. After a full morning of activities, we had lunch with the TRP staff as they shared more about the impact of TRP and how it has affected and enriched their lives.

The Recreation Project
Students trying working to get through 'the spider web.'

Students learning about each other and communication through an
activity called the Treasure Hunt 
Having lunch with the TRP facilitators
"When the music changes, so does the dance." ~African Proverb
Music For Peace is an organization founded to promote peace building and positive social change through music. We met and heard from the founders, Jeff ‘Korondo’ and his wife Lindsay who shared about the development of  MFP. Jeff is a popular artist in northern Uganda who, as a response to his own experiences during the war, uses his talent of music to inspire and create a network of other local artists to bring peace through the powerful medium of music. The couple have supported many youth to engage in music as a way of emotional release, and a vehicle for positivity. After discussion we were treated to a live performance by several musicians in their new recording studio!

Jeff and Lindsay share about Music For Peace

Jeff sings some of the songs in the studio

Sunday morning, before returning to Mukono, we enjoyed a student-led worship service, in which several students shared about their own faith journeys over the semester. 
Worship service at the guest house
Stopping for lunch on the way back home.
We are always grateful for the people who are willing to spend time with us, sharing about the work they do and the lessons they've learned along the way. And we thankful to learn about and be inspired by the work they are doing to rebuild people and their communities in Northern Uganda. 

Listening is the most difficult skill to learn and 
the most important one to have. ~African Proverb

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