Archive by Author

Welcome Irene

2 Sep


IMG_0434Irene has been one of our star facilitators at The Recreation Project for the last three years. Her energetic and compassionate approach always brings positive change within the young people she works with. When I learned that Charles would be pursuing a Masters Degree, I had my fingers crossed that Irene would be able to lead our facilitators this coming year…and she agreed! Here is a little more from Irene:

I am very happy to be introducing myself to the TRP family around the world. Ben asked if I would say a few things about myself so that you know me better. I grew up in Kitgum and Gulu. I am the second born in the family and have 4 brothers and 4 sisters. Times were tough growing up and we needed to get the best grades in school so that we could be placed on scholarship. In high school I was recognized for having high marks and was awarded with the Windle Trust educational scholarship. During that time I was active in my church and also held the position of Deputy Speaker for the Uganda National Student Association for the District of Gulu. In University I was taken up by the Madvani Scholarship. During the first week of classes all Freshmen were given a welcoming party. At this welcome party I was nominated as the female guest of honor—this is where I met Sister Margaret who connected me to TRP. I attended a training at TRP and was selected to be a roster facilitator. Throughout my studies the allowances I received from TRP helped with some of my expenses. Education is a high value in my family. In fact, my father has gone back to school as well. There is steep competition in my family to receive the best marks—my younger sister just told me that once she gets to university she’ll never leave.

I am really excited to get some girls-only programs running at TRP. Currently, I am working with Ben and Charles to establish an all-girls climbing club and some clubs in schools for girls in elementary school that teaches important life skills and about the advantages of making good decisions and staying in school. I want to see these young women become agents of change in our community.

When I started with TRP I couldn’t immediately see the benefit of running a recreational program in a jungle. Shortly after starting, however, I have been convinced of the effectiveness and importance of our program. Yesterday I was with a group where one guy explained that he learned two life lessons. First, that it is important for him to think and plan for his future—to not let things happen to him, but to make what he wants happen. And secondly, he said that, on several occasions he wanted to give up on the group activity. After persevering at TRP he found value in pressing forward and wants to apply this determination in his everyday life.

I am very happy to meet you all and look forward to sharing more soon.
Be Blessed.

Family and Friends Fun Day

19 Aug

Spiders web

Thanks to everyone who made our Family and Friends Fun Day a success! We loved listening to a group laugh across the forest, while another reclining for lunch in the treehouse, and others climbing the wall or zipline. Over the last few months, the demand for hosting “open days” in the Forest has become something that we’re listening to. By the end of our regular programming, we’re often approached by people wanting to know how they can bring their families. They explain the lack of energizing and healthy leisure activities available in Gulu (we have all felt it). The Family and Friends Fun Day is one of our attempts to make TRP self-sustaining in Gulu. Having a solid model that brings in local income is an important part of our current planning–it just happens to come with the added benefit of giving families and groups of friends something rejuvenatingprussic pass

Spiders web Thanks again. And don’t forget to “Like” us on our Facebook page to see our daily happenings.

Reflections From a Busy Week

16 May


webshots-2Last week we had five groups on the ropes course, two that were large and included over 140 people–which means a lot of responsibility for the TRP team. One of the most powerful sessions was with a group of 25 blind kids from Gulu High School and another group of children who were born in captivity of the LRA.

The children born in captivity were full of life, engaging, and eager to try every element in the forest. They talked about their challenges in interacting with other children and also about the difficulty of speaking openly with their parents about their memories in the bush. We are hoping to start a program specifically for children born in captivity of the LRA. One day in the forest is just not enough time to begin addressing some of the wounds of war that many of them still vividly remember. Stay-tuned for the plan…and the ask.


Briefing the Facilitator Team.

My role hosting the groups this week was to make a few plans with Charles, TRP’s Lead Facilitator, and watch them work. The facilitator team is doing great at leading our groups and it’s awesome to see them work. On one morning in particular I arrived at the site by 8AM—a large group was arriving shortly after at 8:30. All nine facilitators had arrived by 7AM and already set-up each station for the day: ropes were hung, harnesses and helmets set out, water basins and washing hands prepared, waivers and pens sat at the entrance…everyone knew what they were doing. I couldn’t think of anything else that needed to be done. I was proud to see them ready to go!

Josie on the course.

Josie on the course.

Another example of how well the facilitators are doing happened one afternoon when I showed up at the Zipline. Josie was belaying, Charles receiving on the platform. I looked up and saw a girl shuffling her hands around on the tree, searching for the next staple. She was blind. I immediately started asking Josie if all the protocol was being followed for sending a blind person down the Zipline; asking her question after question. She kindly answered all of my questions and then gently said, “This is the fifth girl in a row we have sent who can’t see”. She had it completely under control.

Even though experiential learning and outdoor adventure-based therapy programming is completely novel to this region, the facilitators at The Recreation Project continue to show me they are capable of implementing a high quality program. I was happy to hear Robert (Coordinator) say, “I wish that I could have done this as a child, some of the life lessons they learn here at TRP I have just recently learned myself, or am still learning now.”

Charles, TRP’s lead facilitator, shares a few of his reflections from the week:

webshots-3Last week we had a group of blind students from Gulu High School. As we closed the program, the blind students began to thank their teachers for bringing them to The Recreation Project. I had the chance to overhear some of their conversations: “This is my first time to do all these activities”… “The zip line, Climbing wall, Spiders’ web, and Milk Tea River–doing all these made me feel as if I have eyes because I believe other people with clear sight also do it the way I did”.

On the other side of the forest there was a group of children born in captivity of the LRA. After passing through the Spiders’ web as a group, they were debriefed and divided in three groups. They were then asked to relate all they experienced with what they expect from their parents and the community.  It was great to hear some of the responses: “In this game we felt loved, supported, and respected by our fellow colleagues and the facilitators. These are the kind of things we expect from our parents and the community”…”Sometimes our parents and relatives just shout at us when we make a mistake”…“We expect our parents to respect our ideas but not to undermine us directly the way they use to do”.

Me with the Facilitator Team

Me with the Facilitator Team

Community Service day with the Gulu Remand Home ~by Okwonga Robert

18 Apr

RH Aywee

RH Aywee
When the children from the Remand Home went to do charitable work at Aywee Health Centre III yesterday, the people at the Centre and the surrounding community asked a lot of questions:
1. What made these children do this work?
2. What changed their attitude toward work?
3. Why are they doing this work and yet our neighbors and community members have never offered to help?
4. How are they reforming?
It was nice to hear some of them say that their experience with TRP has made them think about community service and giving back.
Praying for soda

A few words about the state of our youth

16 Apr


Hon. Martin Mapenduzi Hon. Martin Mapenduzi[/caption] Mapenduzi) Below is an excerpt of a speech that our Local Council Chairperson (Hon.made at a meeting about youth un-employment yesterday. At TRP, we fight un-employment by building personal confidence combined with key skills such as: problem-solving, planning, creative thinking, and innovation. The problem is mammoth and it will certainly take a combined force of committed individuals and agencies to address these issues.

…“Rural youth in Gulu District are employed in two main unsustainable extractive industries: brick-making and charcoal-burning. These industries, crucial as they are, can be implemented sustainably, if only our youth knew how.

Brick-making is exacting a massive toll on our soils and our tree cover. Charcoal-
burning is not only destroying valuable trees like the Shea Butter Tree. It is also
creating openings for marijuana growing.

Our urban youth have resorted to prostitution and gambling as a means of acquiring the capital with which to engage in petty trade and boda-boda riding. These trades of last resort, unnecessary as they are, ought to be banned and or tightly regulated.

The frustrations our youth encounter in these ‘trades’ leads them to alcoholism,
depression, and eventual suicide.

Brick-making, charcoal-burning, prostitution and gambling: these are the ‘trades’
most youth in Gulu District are employed in. This, sadly, is the reality of the post-
conflict environment in Gulu District. This, unfortunately, is the condition in which we are attempting to ensure post-conflict recovery and development.

The sheer creativity of our youth in these endeavors calls for a rechanneling of their energies (emphasis added) in more progressive directions. It calls for greater policing and regulation. It calls for the creation of new opportunities in areas of greater long-term comparative advantage”….

Then he posses the question: “how are we to craft the specific policy issues that will address this irony of youth employed in destructive and unsustainable trades?”