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 person 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.