The past two days have been a whirlwind here in Uganda. Oeindrila and I spent most of yesterday finalizing our pitch and concept plan to provide to potential partners and collaborators. Together, we have spent the past 5 months formulating ideas on programming and how we can collaborate to expand the work of Playing to Live! in order to serve more children and communities in need. We have looked all across the world, quite literally, for possible implementation sites and Uganda’s South Sudanese refugee camps had the open doors we needed to schedule a trip. Together we are working to identify the ideal partnership and program site for Playing to Live! and to set the stage for strong research study. Once this has been completed, Oeindrila will be performing an independent evaluation on programming implemented by Playing to Live and our partner organization.
Last night, we took a break from our computers and were welcomed into the home of a Ugandan woman who is leading the charge in serving the education and health needs of the children of Uganda. We were invited to join by two new art therapists from George Washington University who are currently visiting and volunteering their time in the region. This incredible woman has dedicated her life and her passion to provide health education and empowerment to Ugandan children. We listened all night to her stories and ideas she has to better her community. I left incredibly inspired and energized. I look forward to building communication between her and the efforts of the Playing to Live! team moving forward!
Today, we had two very important meetings. The first meeting was with a large international NGO that oversees many of the refugee camps in Uganda. We learned that there is a large gap in psychosocial support programs within the camps, and I was honored to witness the interest and excitement they had towards exploring opportunities for future collaboration. Our second meeting was with a Ugandan non-profit organization, which acts as a leading force in psychosocial support services in Uganda and in the refugee camps. Not only did we learn a lot about the community’s culture, needs, and current resources, but we also spoke about ways in which many of our goals align. In each of the meetings – I found that two core themes arose: (1) the need for culturally relevant and sustainable programs and (2) the need for scientific research to build evidence of best practices. Despite the challenges we may face globally and the vast gaps in current services for children in need – I found comfort in the knowledge that the core themes identified during our discussions here in Uganda mirror the aims of Playing to Live. I take comfort in the fact that Playing to Live! is working to contribute to combat the barriers to these needs. The last few days have reminded me of a quote from Helen Keller - “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much!”
We have more meetings tomorrow then off to North Uganda to visit the work sites of the organizations we have spoken with over the last two days. We are looking forward to running focus groups with members of the community and having a investigating possibilities of future work.
Away we go!
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We will be providing you with stories of the communities we support. The children and their caregivers featured in this blog have provided consent to share their art, pictures and stories.