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And we’re off: TRP and Restore Leadership Academy climbing club!!!

27 Jul

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Today we received 15 girls from Restore Leadership Academy for our first climbing lesson. We are always so excited to get a new batch of climbers and filled with hope of what will come. We introduced the project, had some practice, and then Irene asked “What are your expectations from this club”. In the past, this question inevitably evokes responses such as: “I hope we will get a sitting fee”, “We need identity cards”, “A certificate”, “Transport allowance”, etc… in this case, we heard a new kind of expectation:

1. Learn how to socialize. ~Joan
2. Gain experience on how to help others. ~Barbara
3. Learn now about our environment and how to be more creative. ~Faith
4. Create unity among students and at home with people in myIMG_1841 2
community. ~Agnes
5. To be able to lead others. ~Prossy
6. Learn skills with creativity and teach others. ~Pauline
7. Know how to react and to lead people. ~Patience
8. Help friends in trouble and get more skills. ~Leah
9. Learn new leadership skills. ~Bridget
10. Learn more cooperation with others. ~Fiona
11. Learn how to take and live life with others in the environment. ~Vivian
12. Learn how to fit into the community. ~Olive
13. Learn how to help others reach their dreams. ~Anenocan
14. Be more courageous. ~Mercy
15. Work hard to achieve my goal and learn more about leadership.
~Gloria

You guys are doing something right Restore International and the Leadership Academy! They already have so much of what we hope to instill in young people in Gulu.  We’re really excited to see where this goes.

My experience on the Wilderness Excursion, by Alex Pycroft

20 Jul

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Arriving before the rest of the group, Ben and I got a chance to scope out what was in store for the day. Looking over the 80 foot cliff—gave even the experienced climber “Jelly Knees”. Imagining 17 high school girls, whose only climbing experience is a 7 meter climbing wall in the forest, I wondered how or if they were going to attempt the climb. The pride of witnessing all 17 overcome their fear of heights was something amazing to watch. All were nervous with a few wet cheeks rappelling down, but none gave in to the challenge before them.

DSC_0099After watching all of the girls rappel, I was one of the last people to head off the cliff. My experience leaning backwards over that edge was terrifying and gave me all that more respect for the girls club.

To get back to camp we needed to hack our way through dense grass and trees. It was a group effort with each of us taking turns with the machete clearing the way. The hike back to camp was a grueling hour, that fortunately ended with with a hardy meal of beans and rice.

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After lunch we set up tents—again, the girls showed exemplary leadership and teamwork to complete the campsite within 30 minutes. With the campsite up, and our things stowed away, we assembled the group to begin another key activity of the wilderness excursion—the LIFELINE. The lifeline was carried out on the smooth rocks using chalk. It’s a creative and simple way for each of the girls to present their whole life story. We asked them to include both positive and negative experiences that they’ve encountered—events that shaped their lives. A curve up shows a positive experience and a curve down, a negative one. I was privileged when asked to come and see some of the lifelines. I saw a number of events about academic achievement and challenges, several instances of death in the family, moving to new locations, but all ended with aspirations of a full and positive future (we had future doctors, lawyers, fashion designers, business managers). I shared my lifeline as well. We shared our stories, challenges and joys, and this created stronger bonds between us.

Around the bonfire in the evening, we were asked to say something positive about someone we saw doing something remarkable. I didn’t expect to be among the people praised, but was so grateful to hear some of the girls talk about the difference I had made for them that day. It was touching, a trip I won’t soon forget.

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Transforming Fear into Joy

7 Jul

Want to know how The Recreation Project transforms fear into joy? Watch this short clip with Priscilla who was one of 20 high school girls in the climbing club we run at Sacred Heart Secondary School. From fearfully climbing one or two steps on the climbing wall to rappelling down a 100 foot cliff on the Wilderness Excursion, Priscilla learned the advantage of taking risks through friendship and encouragement. Now, she translates that experience into her relationships, her academics, and community life. Her friends say that she’s a new person…and we see it too!

The Coach

7 May

Mike coaching

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I can remember the first time I met Mike.  It was on a basketball court in Gulu, Uganda and he was a skinny little guy who obviously didn’t have as much talent as the other basketball players.  But his jump shot was precise.  I mean, it was the perfect L, he landed in the same spot he jumped from, he was grabbing the cookie jar at the top, it was everything that I was taught as a young kid at Hastings Basketball Camp.  I have to say I was shocked, as Mike wasn’t anything I had experienced in Gulu basketball.  For weeks I had been impressed by the pure raw talent in these Acholi men.  Power, speed, and aggressiveness had filled the court.  And Bricks.  I mean, serious bricks.  We couldn’t make a jump shot for the life of me and some of the technique looked more like an overhead soccer pass than a basketball shot.  Mike was the opposite, so I watched.

 

For the next hour and a half I was enthralled as Mike not only showed a discipline in his technique, but he showed a discipline in his spirit.  He seamlessly maneuvered between being a leader and a follower, a listener and one who would speak up, one who took control but also knew when to step back and push others forward.  He had coach written all over him.  But the thing that impressed me the most:  Mike was a giver.  Recently I read a tweet from Pastor Hank Fortner of Mosaic Church in LA.  Hank is someone I listen to on a weekly basis and he tweeted the qualities of a giver:  Listen, Adjust, Pursue, Remember, Offer, Invest, Coach, Invite, Forgive.  That is the core of who Mike is.

At the very end of 2012 the time Casey and I had spent in Uganda came to an abrupt end.  Of all the different programs that TRP does I had been the one really guiding our baseball program.  It was an opportunity that turned a lifelong dream into a reality, and I couldn’t bear the thought of it ending.  Mike had been a part of all the different aspects at TRP but he had latched onto the idea of coaching and leading our young kids in the sports activities with ease.  It’s hard to explain how difficult it was to leave Uganda, but I have to say one thing was very easy:  Giving full control of the day to day activities ofMike coaching TRP sports to Mike.  Everything from his attention to detail, his contagious energy as he guides young men on a baseball diamond, his always eager desire to learn more about whatever he is doing, it all gave our entire team great confidence that he would not only keep the program moving, but that he would push it further than we ever thought it could go.  But at the end of the day, it was this quality of being a “giver” that pushed us over the top.  This was what made Mike the perfect person to facilitate thousands of kids using baseball as a game to dream about being something bigger.  These kids wouldn’t be hearing a message of poverty or war, but one of hope and redemption built on a foundation of love and hard work.  We knew Mike would pour himself out for these kids, that he would put in the long hours of practice it took to push each one to their best, that he would be an example of the type of person these kids aimed to be, and that he would constantly believe in these athletes and subsequently invest in every step of their development.

Almost three years later Mike is still proving himself to us.  Tomorrow he is taking 18 young men down to the annual Uganda Little League National Tournament.  This is the third year that he has ran a league with 500+ kids involved that finishes with an all-star team from several schools around Gulu making a trip to the only baseball sports complex in the country.  I know, this isn’t a big deal for American kids, as it has almost become a right of passage to have this kind of opportunity, but I can tell you it means everything to our young boys in Uganda.  Even though we can roll a baseball out anywhere in the country and have 100 kids wanting to play in 5 minutes, they don’t have leaders who are able to facilitate the opportunity for them to use the sport to grow.  Teachers, adults, etc. just don’t invest the time or resources to make it possible.  It is almost incomprehensible to see this after living the childhood I did, and it can be downright discouraging.  But not for Mike, he refuses to let Uganda’s situation define him or his boys.  He believes with all his heart that we will eventually be watching one of the kids in Northern Uganda playing for the Cubs.  But more than that, Mike is doing the hard work every day to make it happen.

Good luck Boys. Mike Coach 3

Join TRP for Our 2nd Brewery “Friendraiser” at Joyride Brewing Company

12 Feb

Join the TRP Denver team at Joyride Brewing Company (2501 Sheridan Boulevard, Edgewater, CO) on Thursday March 12th from 5:00-7:00pm to learn more about our vital work in Northern Uganda while enjoying craft beer and exploring another local brewery! This is not a fundraising event (although donations are always welcome), but rather an opportunity for old and new TRP supporters to get to know each other, sign up to hear about future events, and get updated on our programs and their impact.