Introduction: Welcome Sarah!

2 May


Hello world…I’ve been TRP’s Marketing and Development Intern for over two months now and it’s about time I introduce myself.

I’m Sarah. It’s great to be here.

When I first learned about The Recreation Project, I was immediately intrigued. You see, I traveled to Uganda in December 2009–it was a trip that would forever alter the trajectory of my life. For a small town girl from Colorado, traveling to Africa was a dream come true. Literally. Up until that point, I spent the majority of my life dreaming of Africa. I wanted desperately to see this place I had read so much about. Having turned down law school the year before, I was searching.

Searching for a purpose.

For understanding.

For meaning.

My dream was calling and I had to go. And I’m so glad I did.

In Uganda, I saw the pain and struggle that comes with living in an impoverished, post-conflict society. But aside from that, and more importantly, I saw the beauty and hope that beats in every person I met. Despite a traumatic past, Uganda and its people are so much more than that—they’re full of strength, resiliency, and a magnetic energy that cannot be ignored. I left feeling inspired, changed, and ready.

After returning home I began working with a variety of nonprofit organizations on causes like girls’ education and women’s entrepreneurship in developing economies. I’m currently in my final month of graduate school, where I have been working toward an MPA with a focus in nonprofit development. I’m excited to have this opportunity to work with TRP, an incredibly unique organization that is doing amazing work for Uganda’s youth.   As a lover of the outdoors, I believe in the healing powers of adventure, team work, and risk-taking. TRP and its reliance on experiential learning is truly unlike any organization working in post-conflict communities. I feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful team.

Watch out for my social media updates, blog posts, and calls for action. I hope we can all join together to create an energetic and excited community that is eager to take a stand for the hope and potential that rests with Uganda’s youth.


A Story of Generosity

30 Apr


Innocent and Ben

On our recent overnight wilderness excursion, the wind and rain forced us under tarps, trees, and small caves.  As I moved around to see how our club was holding up, I encountered groups chatting, laughing, and dancing in the rain.  Underneath one tarp I found just one of our guys providing rain protection to a young boy who had wondered to our campsite from a nearby village.  The boy had a reserved happiness about him.  This climbing club member named Innocent befriended the boy (named Moses) and listened to his frustration with arriving to school late because he didn’t know what time it was: he had been kicked out of school.  Nobody in his house had a watch,phone, or clock.  Innocent was moved and gave the boy his watch.  I was humbled to learn that Innocent himself was in the midst of struggling to survive.  He is an orphan who dropped out of elementary school to support his older and younger sisters.  Daily he wakes up early to dig a small sugarcane plot to pay his sister’s school fees, even though he would love to go back to school himself.

Why is it that the less fortunate give more proportionately to others in need than do those with excess?  Psychologists have termed it “compassion deficit”.  Many propose the driving force to be empathy—the ability to relate to the needy person’s situation.  The hearts of the fortunate have no “deficit”, but lack the opportunity to experience what the needy experience.

It’s interesting: last week when the Juvenile Detention boys were cleaning the health center the guards who accompanied the boys were demanding for a “day allowance”.  When the In-charge explained that this was part of a day’s work, they said, “there’s nothing like working for free”—implying that they needed additional payment: this said in front of over 20 boys who worked all morning without pay.

It’s better to give than to receive—indeed.  There is something so healing about giving and not expecting anything in return.  Altruism is scientifically proven to be therapeutic.  Why don’t we do it more?  A challenge to myself and those reading this blog…

Later on I asked club members to draw their life path in chalk on the rock, noting several of their most influential moments–good and bad. I have done the lifeline exercise for years, but this time Innocent did something I’ve never seen before . At a certain point, Innocent’s lifeline split into two—one for himself and one for his sisters.  It was a beautiful picture of empathy.

What have you noticed about generosity and empathy?

Insights from the Wilderness Excursion

30 Apr

Our recent overnight Wilderness Excursion was a great experience for our group. Despite running into wind and rain, breakthroughs were made, goals set, and goodbyes were said to past behavior. It was a time to reflect, bond, and grow all the while enjoying rock climbing and adventure in the hills of northern Uganda.

P1010427Here are a few insights from Charles:

“The wilderness excursion brought a lot of changes in our life. When the wind was almost blowing away our tents we all worked together as a team – some of us were holding the tents, others were carrying stones to pin the tents down, and others were making sure that our luggage was kept dry. This demonstrated that if we work together despite of all the difficulties we are facing we can do something for our families, our group and, the community.”  Kichel told his group members.

“To me it’s a new experience; I had no idea if I wouldP1010422 experience this in my life. The weather reminded me about my SST (Social Studies) when our Primary Seven (P.7) teacher told our class ‘the higher you go the cooler it may become.’  I have never seen a Scorpion or monkeys yet they are just here at Ft. Baker which is only 30 kilometers away. Thank you TRP for giving us this opportunity.” Patrick told his group.

At the bonfire–Wang oo”– the youth threw pieces of brick into the fire while saying they don’t want the burden and curse they are getting from their relatives to limit their success. Others threw bricks to take away the spirit which makes them love alcohol and bad peers.

Sunday morning the Local Councilor of the area gave us a tour and history lesson of how slaves were taken from this part of the world. We were proud to hear from the leader of the area who said in 1860s Sir Samuel Baker came in to stop slave trade, he was supported by local people and he stayed here. On showing the place where the head of the weak slaves are cut, one of the youth said “Thank you God” for bringing Sir Samuel Baker all the way here.

Thank you all friends and supporters of TRP. It is because of you that youth in Northern Uganda are given this experience for growth and healing.2013-04-20 14.05.29



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

18 Apr

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?”