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Play Ball

30 Oct

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ortiz

Game 6 of the 2013 World Series is just a few short hours away. Fans from across the nation are decked in their team colors. People are making plans to watch the 8:07pm EST game start. Bleachers will be full, stands will be packed, and homes and bars across the country will be crammed with excitement and dueling hopes. Hopes that David Ortiz hits a few more out of the park tonight to seal in the victory and crown the Sox with their 8th World Series win. Cards fans will be glued hoping to see a miracle win on the road to force game 7 tomorrow night and to have a chance to take home the championship.

While we all root, cheer and hope for the next World Champions, there is an overgrown field with fresh tracks from a group of kids leaving practice for the day just hoping for a shot at the big leagues. In a country recovering from an astounding 25 year long war, waged in the currency of youth, Bishop Negri Primary School’s little league team has made considerable strides over the last year. Last year, with a few committed coaches, some gloves and some baseballs, our kids finished second in the Uganda National Little League Tournament.  As a result of a technicality with the 1st place team was disquallified, our team was offered the spot to compete in the Africa/Eroupe regional finals and a chance to play in the Little League World Series (LLWS). Due to a significant lack of funds, time and recourses, our kids were unable to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

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Cassie Says Wabinen (See You Next Time)

5 Aug

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What can I possibly say to summarize my last two months being part of The Recreation Project and living in a culture so different and new to me? Well, let me begin by saying that I have loved every moment of it, even the challenges!

I’d like to reflect on some of the highlights from my summer here in Gulu.

First of all I was welcomed in a way like never before. The staff, beneficiaries, the community, everyone welcomed me by showing me unexplainable hospitality.

There were also the groups I got to facilitate in the Forest. I certainly hit the ground running when I got here with a group my first day, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I have enjoyed more than anything being with our groups and watching them undergo change in the matter of our program. I loved all our groups, but working with the girls rescue home from Zion Project was one of my favorite memories. Those girls have come from backgrounds I cannot begin to comprehend and they choose daily to face the challenges that are presented to them with a confidence I have never seen in a child their age. They are resilient, energetic, fun, loving girls, and it was truly a life changing experience to work with them.

I too enjoyed the week we worked with rugby groups from different secondary schools around Gulu. I was challenged in that week by the differences from group to group. We had groups that were easier to work with and others who caused me to stumble as I facilitated because they were stubborn or couldn’t cooperate well together, but it was a growing and learning experience none the less.

And I cannot forget to mention my joy from working with the primary schools coaching softball and baseball. Watching those kids grow in the last two months has been a delight. The boys at Negri Primary blew my mind with how honestly great they were at baseball, but they continued to grow and learn. The boys and girls at Vienna Primary also were a great deal of joy as I watched them transitions from not knowing how to pick and put on gloves to swinging bats and playing the game. It has truly been a joy and blessing to have so many experiences with The Recreation Project. I cannot thank TRP enough for letting me come be a part of them for this short while and for those of you who continue to support the project.

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Besides the groups I too fell in love with the people I had the opportunity to work with day to day. Like I have said before their hospitality is unexplainable and their friendship is true. I love facilitating with Charles, Irene, Josie, and Robert. I’ve loved seeing Ben’s heart and passion for this project and having time with his family. I too have loved coaching softball and baseball with Mike and Patrick. The staff, facilitators, and coaches connected with The Recreation Project don’t do what that they do because they need the job or want the fame of doing it, they really do it for the beneficiaries we work with, they do what they do to empower the youth of Uganda.

And to talk about what is next may be a bit premature, but I will be home and soon to start my final year of University. I plan to stay connected with TRP by starting our first campus chapter at my University. I will also be planning a new program that, when I graduate in May 2014, I will hopefully have the opportunity to come back to Gulu, Uganda and put into action. I have every God-given dream and desire to do overseas mission work and having the opportunities I have had here with TRP and in Gulu have done more than prepared me for my future.

So for now I say Wabinen, which in Acoli means see you next time.

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Room For Growing- Staff And Facilitator Training

19 Jul

Training day
The team was divided into two and put on opposite sides of the hoops and told that they had to cross to the opposite sides with their legs tied to those next to them.

The team was divided into two and put on opposite sides of the hoops and told that they had to cross to the opposite sides with their legs tied to those next to them.

This past Tuesday the Forest was ringing with laughs from none other than the staff and facilitators of TRP. We came together for a training led by our intern Cassie Buelow.

Ben’s thoughts on the day were summed up in saying that Cassie did a great job training us in a bunch of new games and leading our team. The training was both beneficial to our team and staff in bringing us together, but it also gave us a new set of games and initiatives for our future programs. The day tested our teams own teamwork and teambuilding abilities. In all was a nice break in routine from our beneficiary groups and programs, and it gave us a chance to reconnect and grow as a team.

Robert said-It was a good training. What I learned was creativity as we were given few materials, a time limit, and told to create something that would protect a water balloon when dropped from the tree house.

Charles said- It was good for building a team that The Recreation Project can depend on. It was fun, a lot of laughs, and it strengthened our personalities on how to facilitate.

The team was given a blanket and challenged to fit everyone onto that blanket. No big deal right? Then they were challenged to flip the blanket over without stepping off of it!

The team was given a blanket and challenged to fit everyone onto that blanket. No big deal right? Then they were challenged to flip the blanket over without stepping off of it!

Cassie reflects on the day in saying that leading a training for the TRP staff and facilitators was an amazing opportunity. She didn’t think upon leaving the United States that all the games she learned in girl scouts, dance, cheerleading, and through numerous leadership roles would play a role in her work here with the project. She loved the energy that the staff and facilitators brought and enjoyed seeing not only relationships grow, but also a team grow closer together. Cassie was not surprised at how the group worked together because she has been among them for six weeks now and they have been together for a bit of time, but she was surprised that they grew closer as a team, and even more so surprised that they each grew more as a person.

Cassie couldn’t decide what was more fulfilling; watching the group come together and then divide only to come back together when challenged to create a protective shelter that when dropped from the tree house would not pop a water balloon, or listening to the group laugh when doing an energizer called group juggling where the group stands in a circle and they pass a ball around to each person and then starting over while adding in as many objects as possible. She actually just really enjoyed the whole day!

As the Forest grew quiet the potential it has expanded. We always emphasize that those who come into the Forest take with them the things they have learned and apply it to their lives outside of the Forest and I do not doubt that the staff and facilitators will do that very thing. The staff and facilitators here at The Recreation Project are all one of a kind, unique, fun, loving, energetic, amazing, joyful, and creative characters who have all been drawn to one mission of inspiring the resilience of people in post-conflict communities by providing active healing experiences through outdoor adventure and sports.

A team that plays together stays together. The TRP staff and facilitators also need some quality time for team building and fun in the forest!

Cassie explaining to the group what to do.

Cassie explaining to the group what to do.

A Story of Generosity

30 Apr

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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?

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