Saturday, September 27, 2008
DrAMa: The rise and fall of a community in Northern Uganda (part 1)
... and then there was the time I started a project in an African war zone.
My journey into the war-torn heart of Africa's Pearl began with an aim to motivate the members at Life in Africa's WE Center Kampala to join hands behind a cause beyond their own poverty. A community like ours could do something to help the children of Northern Uganda.
We held a great fundraising event, we got a contract making bracelets to support awareness of the plight of children in Northern Uganda, and we went to Northern Uganda in small groups to facilitate art therapy workshops with groups of night commuter children and former child-soldiers. After interacting with children at different organizations in Gulu, we'd developed the strongest bonds with one night-commuter center in particular. The volunteers that were keeping the place running were horribly under-resourced. We started thinking about setting up some of our adult community activities there, involving the volunteers and the childrens' parents.
I wrote online about the idea of establishing a second WE Center in Gulu, and before long we had $15,000 to get started in the form of an Omidyar.net community favorite award. We arranged with the organization who had built the night commuter shelter to rent space there and construct some additional buildings. Grace worked her heart out managing the start-up and mobilizing the community in Gulu to get started. My second cousin connected us with her church; volunteers from the US came to help us get activities rolling. We added a number of children's programs (including the Breakfast Club food program and more peacetiles) to our range of adult programs, and within 6 months the WE Center in Gulu was thriving with excited activity.
I close my eyes and remember that as a magical time. As many of you already know, the magic would not last...
But it was around that time that a friend of a friend of a cousin of mine got in touch. He was in Uganda running a private film-making workshop and looking for projects for his students to film. He assigned a student film-maker named Andrei Zubok to make a film about the WE Center Gulu project, and Andrei's film was really great except for one section where the sound faded out.
Fortunately, in my inbox from Andrei yesterday is the link to a new version of the WE Center Gulu video on youtube with that sound problem corrected. I am especially grateful to Andrei - not only for giving more of his time to correct the problem, but for capturing the magical essence of what Life in Africa in Gulu once was, before it crumbled into the cracks later created by callous greed.
Expect lots of DrAMa