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Life Line

9 Jul

Life Line

The month of June was enormous for the Recreation Project! With over 200 participants coming through the camp in Gulu; we had tremendous success in helping various youth groups experience joy and learn valuable life skills through rock climbing and the ropes courses.

In addition we held our largest Wilderness Excursion to date! Over thirty six participated in an outing to the cliffs near Patiko. A large number came from the all girls climbing club based at Sacred Heart High School. Two days were spent building camp and practicing rappelling skills that were learned earlier in the month at the TRP camp in Gulu.

In the evenings there was time to relax and eat while stories were shared around the campfire. Ben along with girls from the climbing club created life lines. These were stories drawn on the rocks using chalk that told of hardship and good experiences. Rocks indicated moments of struggle that were overcome while flowers signified happy memories. Poetry and song were also shared throughout the night. One climbing club member reflected on the loss of her parents and how going to school seemed hopeless until she joined the climbing club and found purpose and strength while rappelling from a 100 foot cliff.

Our largest Wilderness Excursion to date!

Our largest Wilderness Excursion to date!

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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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?