Well – after packing my bag and passport and hitting the road for Atlanta – I finally made it to Uganda! I arrived at 4am after 30 hours of travel and by 10 am it was time to hit the ground running. We have an exciting week ahead of us filled with meetings with different organizations in Kampala, the capitol, and in North Uganda in a South Sudanese refugee camp. My colleague Oeindrila Dube, a professor at the University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy, met me in Kampala to begin our journey together.
I reached out to Oeindrila earlier this year after becoming interested in her work in reconciliation and forgiveness in Sierra Leone. I listened to her interview on the podcast This Hidden Brain and became extremely interested in her research focus and how it relates to our work at Playing to Live! I could write pages on my interest in theories of the findings in her research on forgiveness in relation to expressive art therapy, but I will save it for another time. I highly recommend listening to her explain her findings in this NPR podcast (link: http://www.npr.org/2016/01/26/463861864/fambul-tok-forgiveness-and-family-talk-in-sierra-leone).
After connecting, Oeindrila and I continued conversations about how Playing to Live programming has developed and how our statistics in Liberia have shown a significant decrease in psychosocial stress symptoms from children enrolled in our 6 month post Ebola program intervention. We began to explore opportunities in combining her strength in research design and the programming developed by Playing to Live. Those conversations are what led to both of us arriving in Kampala, Uganda early this morning.
After months of conversations, we finally met in person for the first time in Kampala and immediately started to explore all the avenues Playing to Live could take to support children and communities living in refugee camps in Uganda. The core of our programming focuses on individual healing, community empowerment and collaboration, psycho-social skill building, relationship skill building, creating safe spaces, and training community based individuals on ways to use their cultural arts as a healing technique. Each of these core components of our work, we can dream of all the ways that these can take shape as we discuss the next chapter of Playing to Live. The greatest challenge may be determining what aspect is the most important to evaluate as we move forward! How can we make the greatest impact in the field with the children and communities we serve? Together we are excited to explore the options.
It’s only been one day -- but I feel like all of our preparation for this trip is already beginning to come to fruition. In the afternoon of our first day, we had a meeting with a representative of a refugee camp to explore opportunities, needs, barriers, and ideas for future collaboration. Additional meetings we have scheduled for this week will explore possible future partnerships and allow us to delve deeper into the reality of the needs and life within a refugee camp here in Uganda. Our goal is to engage key stakeholders and the community to customize programming in partnership with our team at Playing to Live. We do this in order to promote community organizations as the core resource in the curriculum’s development; therefore, these initial meetings will be crucial in relationship building and building the groundwork for future program development.
Tomorrow starts another full day, and I’m eager to keep going. I invite you to continue to follow our blog for frequent updates along the way.
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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.