Needs by Al Leone

25 Jul

The primary senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Perhaps the first thought for those of us from Western culture is that without one we will be unable to communicate. We will be inefficient. We will not survive and be successful. Yet, during the second official facilitator training, the staff of TRP demonstrated that nothing is impossible as long as you can think outside of the box.

One of the first initiatives that the facilitators had to perform was an exercise in which there were three leaders and five followers. The followers were blindfolded and had an unknown list of tasks to complete. The leaders knew what the tasks were and had been instructed to help the followers complete the task without speaking to the followers or touching the followers or the objects needed to complete the task. Some of the tasks included passing a ball, singing a song and putting on a pair of sunglasses. Like other groups that I have seen attempt this activity, our facilitators struggled and frustration grew as the communication, apparently nonsensical, was leading them nowhere.
“What do you need,” I asked both groups and quickly they listed off needs for understanding and better communication. The followers were in agreement that they were waiting to be lead. Yet, when I asked why they were waiting there was no response. When I asked what was stopping them from asking for what they needed from their leaders there was again no response. Slowly, progress began. The blindfolded participants began to ask questions to promote their own learning and those with the answers were finally able to give information.
The activity ended in a wave of relief as the knowledge that they had been successful brought about celebration. Again I asked ‘what did you need’ and ‘why did you wait to get it’.
“What do you need’? The answer is never simple, especially in a place like Gulu where so many of the resources we once could rely upon on are taken from us. Yet, just like in this activity, the people have found ways to think creatively and use the greatest asset they have: each other. While there are still more struggles that we must face the people have each other and TRP facilitators are bringing the resources of creativity and community back.

Millenium Development Goals and Recreation

25 May

Here is an article talking about how sports can help reach major development goals in our world.  Professor Tess Kay of Brunell University in London gives us 5 messages about how sport can play a major role in achieving them.

Check it out here.

We see these messages consistently displayed at the ropes course.  Sports and recreation continues to play a bigger role in how the world is viewing the development of countries everywhere.

Play Helps Japan Recover

22 Apr

I linked an article from CNN about how play is helping young people cope in Japan:
CNN Article
After working in this post-conflict zone I can resonate with a lot of what is said.  Here is a brief quote from the article as well:

“For them to regain their routine and their normal life, it’s so important to become stabilized and then recover from their stress and grief”

Slide Show

7 Apr

TRP Facilitators

We have just completed our first facilitator training for The Recreation Project.  Turn out was 100% with maximum participation!  Aaron, a Peace Corps volunteer led us through two full days of group initiatives and taught us principles of experiential learning and facilitation.  A final debriefing exercise he taught us was “slide show”.  An activity where all participants closed their eyes and told the group the most memorable snap-shot or picture of the training.  This blog will be a few of my snap-shots.


Giving instructions without talking

Giving instructions without seeing

Zach being passed through the Spider's Web

Irene, free as a bird!

Irene, free as a bird!

As a participant, I had the unique opportunity to experience the activities myself.  An exercise I won’t soon forget was called, “Crossing the line”.  Aaron divided the group in half and placed a rope in between the two groups.  He gave both groups an objective. (The same objective, but we didn’t know that at the time).  The objective was to get all of the people from the other side of the rope to your side—without touching them.  After 45 minutes we had not accomplished the goal.  We tried all kinds of negotiation, convincing tactics, and manipulation, to lure the others to our side.  For no clear reason, we deeply mistrusted the other group because we felt that they were only interested in achieving their goal and making us lose.  Competition set in as soon as Aaron gave us the objective.  About half way through, I realized that we might be able to both succeed if we simply switched sides.  I suggested this to the other group, using every big of logic and persuasion I could.  The other group was so entrenched in their mistrust of me that they could not see my request as a solution.  It was only another trap in their mind.  The dynamics of the group changed after this exercise.  Not irreparably, but we had all felt a level of otherness or competition with the other group that couldn’t easily be shaken off.  The activity exposed human nature’s propensity to mistrust in the absence of information, and how quickly we can become seated in our mistrust.  It was extremely powerful, and I’m looking forward to doing this activity with all the groups that visit the Project.

Zip Line: a flying response to fear

29 Mar

Prepping them to fly

This afternoon Ben and I went and met with the Comboni Samaritans to reflect on one of their youth groups who had recently went through the course.  During the conversation we were asking about the feedback they had heard from students.  What did they think?  What did they learn?  How did it change their outlook on life?  The local program officer, Pasca, told us about her interactions with some of the women

She said, “You know, those girls were scared.  It is not an easy thing to climb up a 25 ft high tree and fly through the air across the forest.  I was very happy to see them overcome that fear.  At the beginning some of them weren’t going to try, but as others went it gave them the courage they needed.  All 10 girls ended up flying down the 300 ft zip line.  They will remember that forever.”

Here are a few short thoughts about the day itself and my conversation with Pasca:

1.  If one thing you do in your life is watch a Ugandan kid go down a zip line for the first time then consider yourself a lucky person.  Fear and uncertainty immediately transform into:  Courage.  Joy.  Elation.  Fearlessness.

It will change you.

2.  It is very encouraging to see our beneficiaries using phrases like, “they will remember this forever”.  The Ropes course  is such a radical change of scenes that the values and lessons learned WILL stick with them forever.

There is much in the world to make us afraid.  There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid.  ~Frederick W. Cropp

Thanks for your time, energy, resources, and overall support making this zip line a reality!  More updates coming soon!