Weekly Update

9 Feb

Greetings friends and family. I’m in charge of writing this weeks blog, so I thought I’d give you a window into our week. The year is starting to rev-up and we’ve had the kind of week I always hope for. Two beneficiary groups, and a refresher training—led by Ogeno Charles.
The first group was a group of 20 young people from the surrounding area. I talked with the local councilor (government official) about bringing a mixed group to TRP. We wanted young leaders and youth of good repute to interact with young people known to be “trouble-makers”. On Monday our forest was filled with laughter and teamwork as stereotypes about one another were challenged.
The second group is coming tomorrow. The group of 12 boys and 2 social workers are traveling from Kampala (the Capitol city-400 kilometers South). None of the 12-14 year old boys have been to the north. They have grown up as street kids and much of their childhood has been taken from them. Our goals for tomorrow are fun, fun and more fun!
The crowning achievement (in my mind) of the week was a refresher training for our facilitators. This one was led by Ogeno Charles, TRP’s Partnership Coordinator. He did an amazing job! He trained new games, safety reminders, care for equipment, and belay techniques. At one point he said, “we have to tie these knots so well that if someone comes from Colorado they can see that we know what we’re doing”!

Building a team…..

30 Jan

A few highlights from this week:

  • Charles turned in a proposal to Handicap International which will bring 8 groups to our course.  He did an excellent job of pursuing the directors and finding out just what we needed to put TRP in a good position of winning this small grant. 
  • Robert has started training on our accounting systems and has picked things up extremely quickly.  It is exciting to see him with so much energy towards such an important part of the long term development of the organization.
  • Charles had two groups booked this week.  One was from the Gulu Remand Home which is similar to a juvenile detention center.  It was great to see our staff care about them so much and you could tell the young men felt the love.  It was another inspiring day to be at the course.
  • Robert worked the logistic side of construction on a shelter, all the food and soda for our groups, and transporting our facilitators to the course.  Everything ran very smoothly and it translated into groups being extremely happy. 
  • We brought on a new facilitator, Gipsy.  Charles did an excellent job getting her up to speed and Robert contributed and then filled in for Chuck in the areas he was taken away from during the training.

It is great to see our team not only coming together but getting stronger by the day.  I am really excited to see our local staff and their development over the next year.

Breaking the Norms!

13 Jan

Traditionally, when women and men are together, women should be quiet and men should do all the talking.  In our mixed group, we encourage all participants to learn from one another and encourage women to engage fully in the activity as well as express their thoughts during debriefing.  Moreover, it has not been socially acceptable to talk about issues to do with our bodies, size, etc… but several of the obstacles on the course deal with our physical ability, and we try to make the environment where this can be talked about.  Here is one such example.

On January 9, 2012 we brought the youth group from Gulu Bible Community Church.  They were really excited for the program.  During debriefing, a girl shared with the group saying, “I got a lot of encouragement today from this Centre.  I looked at the Spider’s Web and thought we were going to move on the strings like a spider. When the facilitator told us that we shall pass from one side to another side using the holes within the Spider’s Web, it looked like all the holes were too small. I was worried and thought to myself, ‘Will I make it since I am the fattest in the group?’   We planned together and I was encouraged to hear my group say that they were going to help me pass; and indeed they helped me to pass through. Today, I am leaving this forest more aware of the importance of supporting other people. Good planning and timing leads to success.”  

Happy New Year!  And thanks to all TRP supporters. 

New Kids in a new environment!

16 Dec

On the December 8th and 9th TRP had groups of kids age 6 to 16. These were kids born under captivity of the LRA. These children are facing difficulties in integrating with other people in the community, they are looked at as rude children and they are stigmatized.  Some of these kids never saw their father because their mother came with them before they were born.

Bringing them to The Recreation Project gave them a new experience of life.  A young girl of 14 years cried to our facilitator on the Zip line platform saying she fears but after seeing a girl of six years going down the zip line she became strong-hearted and flew. However one of these girls came up to the platform and refused to step off.  She kept on asking me to let her go down. At the beginning of the day most of these kids looked out-of-place or lost, they had no smiles on their faces.  In the middle of the day I was about 60% excited which later rose to 99% because some of them started to smile freely. I like working with such kids whose parents caused suffering to many of us, I am excited that TRP is helping us to integrate with these kids.

As we closed the day, I asked the kids what they learned from the day. Their response was skill, courage, and one of them was like I learned how to be UMEME, UMEME is company supplying electricity in Uganda. These kids were really excited at the end of the day because of our high elements such as the Climbing wall, Leap of faith and Zip line.

My message to the community is to encourage us to keep working and exposing such kids to new environments to help them face and overcome the bad memories, help them reintegrate with other people, and help them focus on a positive future.

 Below is TRP Climbing wall one of the high elements that the kids enjoyed.

Is Reform Possible?

21 Nov

re-welding my panels

In the last couple of weeks, I have had my solar panels stolen (and recovered thankfully), and the radio stolen from my vehicle. In our new neighborhood, I sit on my front porch and watch groups after groups of young guys wandering aimlessly. “These youth are terrible”, our local councilor tells me. “There is nothing for them to do except cause problems”, he says.

There is an increasingly large cohort of youth with little to no prospects for going to school or getting a job. With urbanization influencing the small town of Gulu, young people are experiencing all sorts of new temptations. When asking young people what the alternatives are to joining gangs they unanimously say “playing football and digging”. No camping, going to the movies, shopping, organized sports, or other extra-curricular activities.

The formal justice system is overwhelmed and under-resourced to manage the growing criminal activity. Moreover, consequence for a crime varies tremendously. For example, last year we had three computers stolen from our house. The two young men who stole them were caught and later sentenced to ten years in prison. On the other hand, the guy who stole our solar panels was released two days later, and may or may not have a hearing in court.

A friend recently told me that a course he had taken at the LSE presented data that prison was the only effected deterrent to crime, and that there was no evidence to suggest that programming aimed at youth rehabilitation was effective. And yet, so many of our first-time offenders (in the West) are given a chance to re-evaluate their lives through mandatory community service, fines and rehabilitation programs, etc… No such programs exist in Gulu.

The idea of starting a program for first-time offenders has been stirring in me. What do people think—Can state-sanctioned programs for first-time offenders rehabilitate? Please comment.