I recently returned from a trip to Northern Uganda, in part to participate in the launch of TCON’s 2012 Agriculture Initiatives. I documented the event of our first distribution in Odek Subcounty in the previous post on our blog. In summary, we believe our strategic partnership with tens of thousands of Acholi widows will help promote food security for this region. By empowering these marginalized women with better resources to farm, we are putting Ugandan’s in the lead role to determine their future. As we claim, we are fighting poverty and cultivating hope. But there is another lesson I learned in Odek that I believe is worth exploring: the moments when nothing can be done.

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I was one of the 20 million viewers of Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 film yesterday. If you follow my twitter or Facebook account you may have noticed that I was wrestling critically with certain aspects of the film as well as Invisible Children’s ideology. Aside from certain critiques or questions I have regarding our global responsibility and response to such atrocities and human rights violations as have been perpetuated by Joseph Kony and his rebel army (LRA), I am fascinated by Invisible Children’s ability to ignite a movement through social media. We live in a different era, an era where the capacity for exchanging information and opinions continues to increase day-by-day. (more…)

The Acholi people of Gulu and Northern Uganda are in the infant stages of a renewed peace and security, but the realities of the horrors they experienced remain just beneath the surface. Its true that the vicious LRA hasn’t struck with violence here in several years, but the trauma from seasons when bloodshed was a constant threat may well continue to haunt a generation of Ugandans.

Areas in Uganda Impacted by LRA

At the height of the conflict, the UN estimates that the war displaced nearly 1.8 million people. Most of them lived in IDP (Internally Displaced Person) Camps for years at a time, struggling for life on every level. A milestone of sorts was reached last month as the UN officially ended its assistance to Northern Uganda. The fact is that people have largely returned to their former homes in Gulu and across the Acholi region (the UN says 98% have returned home, and nearly 250 IDP camps are now closed). But while many emergency aid & relief organizations pack their bags to leave this area, the question remains: What happens next for these people? (more…)

The first time I met Joseph Elotu it became clear that he was going to live up to his reputation as the Ugandan gentle giant. His taller stature and calm presence were evident from the start and the fatherly tone of his voice, which closely resembles James Earl Jones’ rendition of Mufasa in The Lion King, solidified my fondness for him almost instantaneously. Each opportunity that I have been afforded to interact with this humble man has only served to deepen this feeling.

On our most recent trip, Craig and I were provided plenty of drive-time where we could investigate further how Joseph came to be who he is today – one of TCON’s greatest assets. I learned of his childhood and how he was mistreated and neglected. I discovered that at the age of fourteen, Joseph was undeniably impacted by the civil war that lasted over two decades in his country, as he was separated from his family and forced to take care of himself while he was still just a boy. I realized that Joseph’s work ethic was born long before he became TCON’s Country Director. But perhaps most poignantly, I was touched deeply by the evidence of this man’s dedication to women and children facing immense hardship within his own community. (more…)

Spending Time with Immaculate in Soroti

One of the things I look forward to most whenever I visit Uganda is eating chapati. Before I returned to the US after a six-month stay in Uganda back in 2006, I attempted to learn firsthand how to create this flatbread from Immaculate, TCON’s infamous cook. Considering the only two ingredients in this flatbread are water and flour, one might presume that it is a relatively easy recipe to create. I had to sit through a handful of demonstrations by Immaculate, however, because without specific measurements I struggled to accomplish the right proportions of each of the ingredients. Now, over 5 years since I departed Uganda, I am still unable to master the art of chapati-making. In fact, I have given up trying and opt instead to get my chapati fix each time I visit Uganda.

I learned on this trip that Immaculate’s chapati is perhaps the best chapati in all of Soroti (the district where our Uganda office resides). So of course hers is likely to put my best effort to shame! In fact, Immaculate’s cooking in general is known to be exceptional. In a conversation with Immaculate on this recent trip I learned about how she began her own catering business on the side to fill her time and increase her income generation when she’s not working at the TCON house. (more…)