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And we’re off: TRP and Restore Leadership Academy climbing club!!!

27 Jul

IMG_1841 2



Today we received 15 girls from Restore Leadership Academy for our first climbing lesson. We are always so excited to get a new batch of climbers and filled with hope of what will come. We introduced the project, had some practice, and then Irene asked “What are your expectations from this club”. In the past, this question inevitably evokes responses such as: “I hope we will get a sitting fee”, “We need identity cards”, “A certificate”, “Transport allowance”, etc… in this case, we heard a new kind of expectation:

1. Learn how to socialize. ~Joan
2. Gain experience on how to help others. ~Barbara
3. Learn now about our environment and how to be more creative. ~Faith
4. Create unity among students and at home with people in myIMG_1841 2
community. ~Agnes
5. To be able to lead others. ~Prossy
6. Learn skills with creativity and teach others. ~Pauline
7. Know how to react and to lead people. ~Patience
8. Help friends in trouble and get more skills. ~Leah
9. Learn new leadership skills. ~Bridget
10. Learn more cooperation with others. ~Fiona
11. Learn how to take and live life with others in the environment. ~Vivian
12. Learn how to fit into the community. ~Olive
13. Learn how to help others reach their dreams. ~Anenocan
14. Be more courageous. ~Mercy
15. Work hard to achieve my goal and learn more about leadership.

You guys are doing something right Restore International and the Leadership Academy! They already have so much of what we hope to instill in young people in Gulu.  We’re really excited to see where this goes.

My experience on the Wilderness Excursion, by Alex Pycroft

20 Jul


Arriving before the rest of the group, Ben and I got a chance to scope out what was in store for the day. Looking over the 80 foot cliff—gave even the experienced climber “Jelly Knees”. Imagining 17 high school girls, whose only climbing experience is a 7 meter climbing wall in the forest, I wondered how or if they were going to attempt the climb. The pride of witnessing all 17 overcome their fear of heights was something amazing to watch. All were nervous with a few wet cheeks rappelling down, but none gave in to the challenge before them.

DSC_0099After watching all of the girls rappel, I was one of the last people to head off the cliff. My experience leaning backwards over that edge was terrifying and gave me all that more respect for the girls club.

To get back to camp we needed to hack our way through dense grass and trees. It was a group effort with each of us taking turns with the machete clearing the way. The hike back to camp was a grueling hour, that fortunately ended with with a hardy meal of beans and rice.


After lunch we set up tents—again, the girls showed exemplary leadership and teamwork to complete the campsite within 30 minutes. With the campsite up, and our things stowed away, we assembled the group to begin another key activity of the wilderness excursion—the LIFELINE. The lifeline was carried out on the smooth rocks using chalk. It’s a creative and simple way for each of the girls to present their whole life story. We asked them to include both positive and negative experiences that they’ve encountered—events that shaped their lives. A curve up shows a positive experience and a curve down, a negative one. I was privileged when asked to come and see some of the lifelines. I saw a number of events about academic achievement and challenges, several instances of death in the family, moving to new locations, but all ended with aspirations of a full and positive future (we had future doctors, lawyers, fashion designers, business managers). I shared my lifeline as well. We shared our stories, challenges and joys, and this created stronger bonds between us.

Around the bonfire in the evening, we were asked to say something positive about someone we saw doing something remarkable. I didn’t expect to be among the people praised, but was so grateful to hear some of the girls talk about the difference I had made for them that day. It was touching, a trip I won’t soon forget.


Focusing on Vulnerable Youth

29 Aug

chicken plucker

Last month we welcomed seven youth groups from the Gulu Youth Development Association (GYDA), a vocational training center.  We have worked hand in hand with GYDA since TRP’s inception.  Kilama, GYDA’s Director, is an inspiring character who believes in innovation and creativity—we get along very well!  He selects youth from extremely vulnerable situations and helps them overcome the barriers that prevent them from earning a living and being productive members of society.  TRP provides the psychosocial backing for their program through our Outdoor Adventure program.

Yesterday we had 90 lively youths from GYDA in the forest, and one young man in particular stood out.  Let’s call him Henry.  Henry is known among his friends for having spent time in prison.  He came in wearing an under-shirt and with boundless energy.  Rest or observation weren’t part of his personality—he wanted to be in the center of each activity.  Henry was larger than life!

He was the first to pass through the “Chicken Plucker”.  We all laughed when he shouted, “You see, I’m strong!!!!  The way I almost broke the chains that were tied on me in prison.”  His passion was surging and lifted others up.

At the “River Crossing” he insisted on being last to cross.  In the debrief he said, “I’m not the most skillful personforge the river in the group—but I found a way of leading and allowing other people’s skills to come out.  I was the last to pass because I wanted to make sure the whole team was safely over.  I had a plan to carry the timber over to the other side, and I really wanted us to succeed.”

Many of the youths from GYDA have, like Henry, been in conflict with the law; some are pulled straight off the streets and given accommodation and skills training.  The forest was vibrating with the energy of these young people—some of whom have decided to place their energy within a new-found light of self-worth, confidence, and hope rather than spend their energy on destruction, cruelty, anger, and hopelessness.  With 80% of Uganda’s population under 30 years old, and only 1% in northern Uganda making it to University—it is crucial that we pay attention to and support these vulnerable young people who are defining the country’s present and future.

Thank you for reading and being a part of The Recreation Project.

The Confidence Gap

17 Apr


Building confidence is one of our highest priorities at The Recreation Project. Research has consistently shown that high levels of confidence have a direct correlation to enhanced quality of life—whether or not there is competence to back up the confidence. Adolescents are in important phases of life where their experiences are extremely important in steering them towards confidence or self doubt. I found an interesting article addressing the issue of male/female confidence—and wanted to share a few pieces with you., further justifying our bend towards involving girls in outdoor adventure and sports. It’s called “The Confidence Gap”, written by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in the Atlantic.


“ …For some clues about the role that nurture plays in the confidence gap, let’s look to a few formative places: the elementary-school classroom, the playground, and the sports field. School is where many girls are first rewarded for being good, instead of energetic, rambunctious, or even pushy. But while being a “good girl” may pay off in the classroom, it doesn’t prepare us very well for the real world….

…the result is that many girls learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. IMG_0987This is to their detriment: many psychologists now believe that risk-taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building….


…Too many girls miss out on really valuable lessons outside of school. We all know that playing sports is good for kids, but we were surprised to learn just how extensive the benefits are, and how relevant to confidence. Studies evaluating the impact of the 1972 Title IX legislation, which made it illegal for public schools to spend more on boys’ athletics than on girls’, have found that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries. There’s even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult. Learning to own victory and survive defeat in sports is apparently good training for owning triumphs and surviving setbacks at work….


…What a vicious circle: girls lose confidence, so they quit competing, thereby depriving themselves of one of the best ways to regain it….”

Introducing Danielle Anthony

26 Mar


IMG_0688Danielle received a Bachelor’s degree in psychology at IU South Bend. Formerly, she worked for Big Brother Big Sister as a case manager with concerned youth. She equipped and educated the mentors to positively guide and influence the youth. Danielle’s interest in working with youth and love for outdoor sports/adventures is a great opportunity to join both passions. She is assisting in the development of a sustainability plan to TRP, facilitating youth groups at the forest, and co-facilitating the all-girls climbing club. She is delighted to work with the youth of Uganda and treasures the special moments that are to come. Danielle is also the lead nursery school teacher for the Gulu International Nursery School Cooperative—where Ben and Holly’s daughter Elliyah attends school. Danielle enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing tennis, trail biking, swimming, and sharing new adventures with friends.