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!

Okwonga, Girl Power, and 5 Things You Need to Know

21 Mar

Hi Everyone,

Check out the latest update from TRP.  If you ever have any questions or want to find out how to get involved feel free to email us at

March Newsletter 2011

Procuring for Peace

18 Feb

I am not an engineer or a construction foreman, but building an outdoor adventure facility for youth in Uganda has required that I be involved in the day-to-day procurement and building of an entirely novel construction project. I am always struck by the availability of certain pieces of hardware or tools until I understand the necessity and the functionality of the piece. Anything that I would need to build a basic house, school, utility service (water, electricity), or agricultural project, etc… can be found within half a mile of my home in Gulu. As soon as I need to piece of hardware that doesn’t serve a very practical purpose I need to begin the web search and find a way of shipping or having a visitor bring the “specialized” piece (i.e. eye bolts, thick rope, torque wrench, cable clamps, etc…).

Space and imagination are central to our program. All day long the young people are exposed to new landscapes, structures and activities. We want to create an environment that allows them to think new thoughts, invent new solutions, shed off perceived limitations and generate resilience in our enchanted forest. We are creating a radical change of scenes that gets young people out of their daily grind and into an imaginative “space”.

In Gulu town, you can walk down the street and pass ten shops, all selling the exact same items for the same price. People stick to what they know because it’s safe and predictable. In developing countries, risk and innovation can seem foolish with such narrow profit margins. Loss of all kinds has been far too common and moving outside of “the known” can be terrifying. Yet, risk spawns new growth and advances society. Ultimately, it is the fear of lose or disappointment that leads many to passive inaction, and this is a key issue that The Recreation Project addresses with young people. My favorite quote from a guy I work with is “just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean that we can’t do it”—but this type of thinking is rare.

This blog is the product of a conversation I just had with Kimbal, our Architect and Design Lead. We are in the process of designing a 20-25 person treehouse and enjoy thinking about a-traditional uses for the ever-present standard pieces of hardware. The Gulu Youth Development Association usually helps with the cutting, bending and welding of these common pieces. Kimbal and his family, Kellen and Judah, have been with us for a year and the time has come for them to re-settle in Denver. While Kimbal will continue sending us his genius from abroad, their presence will be greatly missed.

With a view towards hope

1 Feb

Just before Christmas my wife and I sent out our annual update letter. At one point I shared about how working with The Recreation Project was so fulfilling because I have gotten to do so many things that I love and call it work.  Photography, graphic design and even a little bit of architecture have filled my workdays and it’s been a lot of fun.

As we have started producing various pieces of media we’ve been forced to explore how to share the story of what the Recreation Project is doing in northern Uganda. Attempting to capture the fullness of a place is tricky.  I think we have all seen the desperate images of depravity that can exist in an underdeveloped country. There are so many who lack the most basic necessities, not to mention the effects that war, violence and instability have on society. It can be tempting to show only the images that are shocking.

On some level I get it.  If any percentage of the US population is like me it can be hard to identify with the realities that so many face across the globe. We need something to shock us into action.  We need to see the deplorable images of starving children to break the numbness that binds us in our routines, to release us from the indifference that lets us change the channel or toss the post cards asking for support in the trash.

As tempting as it is to use the images of desperation and need, they don’t tell the whole story.  I could post endless photos of people living in dire situations but they would fail at expressing the stories that bring dignity to a people who have endured, and in so many cases overcome unconscionable hardship.  It’s a constant struggle to walk the line between making people aware of the realities while telling the whole beautiful story of place. Although I may not always find that balance it’s an honor to have had the chance to try.