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Focusing on Vulnerable Youth

29 Aug

chicken plucker

Last month we welcomed seven youth groups from the Gulu Youth Development Association (GYDA), a vocational training center.  We have worked hand in hand with GYDA since TRP’s inception.  Kilama, GYDA’s Director, is an inspiring character who believes in innovation and creativity—we get along very well!  He selects youth from extremely vulnerable situations and helps them overcome the barriers that prevent them from earning a living and being productive members of society.  TRP provides the psychosocial backing for their program through our Outdoor Adventure program.

Yesterday we had 90 lively youths from GYDA in the forest, and one young man in particular stood out.  Let’s call him Henry.  Henry is known among his friends for having spent time in prison.  He came in wearing an under-shirt and with boundless energy.  Rest or observation weren’t part of his personality—he wanted to be in the center of each activity.  Henry was larger than life!

He was the first to pass through the “Chicken Plucker”.  We all laughed when he shouted, “You see, I’m strong!!!!  The way I almost broke the chains that were tied on me in prison.”  His passion was surging and lifted others up.

At the “River Crossing” he insisted on being last to cross.  In the debrief he said, “I’m not the most skillful personforge the river in the group—but I found a way of leading and allowing other people’s skills to come out.  I was the last to pass because I wanted to make sure the whole team was safely over.  I had a plan to carry the timber over to the other side, and I really wanted us to succeed.”

Many of the youths from GYDA have, like Henry, been in conflict with the law; some are pulled straight off the streets and given accommodation and skills training.  The forest was vibrating with the energy of these young people—some of whom have decided to place their energy within a new-found light of self-worth, confidence, and hope rather than spend their energy on destruction, cruelty, anger, and hopelessness.  With 80% of Uganda’s population under 30 years old, and only 1% in northern Uganda making it to University—it is crucial that we pay attention to and support these vulnerable young people who are defining the country’s present and future.

Thank you for reading and being a part of The Recreation Project.

TRP is Looking for Interns

27 Aug

TRP is seeking interns to assist the Fundraising and Development Coordinator in leading stateside awareness and fundraising efforts to support our work in Northern Uganda.  This internship will be based out of TRP’s Denver office space in the Posner Center for International Development.  This position offers a lot of freedom to pursue areas of personal interest and to meaningfully contribute to our vital work bringing healing and hope to post-conflict communities. Check out the full job description for more information about the position and how to apply.

We Came, We Saw, We Got Muddy!

12 Aug



On August 2nd, TRP board members and friends took on the Big Dog Brag Mud Run in Colorado Springs.



Our mud runners were supported by eighty donors who helped us raise nearly $5,000 to support our programs inspiring youth in Uganda to overcome fear and patterns of war.


We also had some wonderful volunteers who manned our sponsored obstacle- the cargo net climb.


We’d like to send out a great big THANK YOU to all of our runners, volunteers, and supporters!

We could not continue our vital work bringing healing experiences to communities traumatized by war without your generous support!

MUDRUN whole group

Climbing Club Members Reach New Heights

31 Jul

Godfrey (640×427)

Two former members of our Climbing Club program, Kichel Denis and Rubangankene Godfrey, have joined TRP’s staff as Level One Facilitators. Both men feel their participation in climbing club was a life-changing experience that empowered them to overcome the obstacles of their past and make a better future for themselves.  Here are their stories:

Kichel DenisKichel (480x640)

Kichel is a former TRP Climbing Club member.  He came to TRP when invited by the local Councilor to join a club that provides weekly training sessions in climbing and life skills.  He is one of many who came to town to seek refugee from the rebels, and spent his nights at the nearby hospital.  “Many of us have nothing to do these days, so there are a lot of bad behaviors.  Most of us are looking for day-jobs to get something to eat.”

Kichel is the second born of 9 siblings.  His father is a farmer and cultivates bananas, sugarcane, and raises fish, and bees.

“I am so proud of my job at The Recreation Project,” says Denis.  “As the leader of the climbing club, I learned how to deal with my age-mates who used to show up to sessions drunk—it hasn’t been easy.  But through this process I have built a lot of confidence in myself and have become a very determined person”


Godfrey (640x427)Rubangakene Godfrey

Rubangakene came to Gulu town in 1996 when violence pushed people from his village to nearby trading centers or towns.  He is a former climbing club member that was invited to the club by a fellow volleyball player.  His team “Ker meri ubin” (Thy kingdom come) was practicing when he eagerly accepted the invitation to try the new sport.

Rubangakene lives with his uncle.  Even though he finished high school and was admitted to agricultural college, his family didn’t have enough money for the school fees.  A couple of years ago his friend offered to rent him a motorcycle and since that time, Rubangakene has been working as a boda-boda driver (motorcycle taxi).

“Some of us (climbing club members) had nothing to do,” Godfrey recalls.  “But after being part of the club, we realized that we could actually pick ourselves up and keep trying.  The Wilderness Excursion was a changing point in my life and many of the other guys.  I got a new perspective of myself, and knew that I had new horizons”

“Working with TRP has allowed me to support my ageing parents and sustain myself. I always remind the guys at the climbing wall to preserve—we never know how high we can go.”

TRP Welcomes Amony Fosca to our Ugandan Team

30 Jun

Fosca 1

Our newest team member, Amony Fosca, is a Sister in training and is in charge of TRP’s hospitality for the next two years.  Here is her story:

Fosca 1

I was born in Kitgum (northern Uganda) in 1993, and given the name “Amony” which means “soldier” at a time when bullets were flying.  My mother told me that the nurses were quaking with fear and almost refused to accept for her to deliver from the hospital because rebels were upon them.  Fear was an every day reality.  No one would be home by 6 in the evening, we all commuted to a nearby church or hospital for refuge.

The reality of the war was felt by everyone and left its impression on me as well.  As a three year old, rebels came into my village while my parents were away digging the garden and I was accidentally left behind, under a tree, as people ran to escape.  When the rebels came to me, I was laughing and welcomed them.  They picked me up and played with me before stealing what was in the granary.  A neighbor who saw this later told me that I wanted to keep playing with them, but how lucky I was that I didn’t get hurt.  Later in life, when my minibus was ambushed and I spent the night on the side of the road, I realized how cruel the rebels could be, and this time a fellow traveler didn’t make it.

I come from a humble family, and was raised by my grandparents.  From the first grade I was welcomed and supported by Sisters and Priests of the Catholic Church.  I was invited to attend boarding school at no cost.  While at school, I helped the Sisters with chores and was drawn to their way of life.  After elementary school I had no means of going to high school.  My father said that I should learn tailoring and earn some income for the family, but I had no interest in tailoring.  I simply volunteered at the church and helped them with cleaning, ironing, and other small tasks.

A priest asked me why I wasn’t in school and I told him my story.  He was able to pay my fees for High School at an all-girls school just south of the Nile river where many girls escaped the environment of fighting to focus on education.  I had almost given up hope when this chance came my way.  I thrived at school and became a leader in Liturgy and Girls Scouts.  I wanted to join the congregation since I was very young, but the Sisters and Priests advised me to go further in formal education, because it would be difficult once in the convent.  I received a certificate and then a diploma from a training institute near the capital city, Kampala.

The Recreation Project is my first job and I am so excited to be a part of changing the lives of other young people.  I know, from experience, that there are many young girls suffering in the village.  It was the kind heart and good life style of the Sisters that inspired me to strive forward.  My dream is that I can be the encourager and to teach important life skills to the hurting, just as I received from the Sisters.