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.
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…)
(Continued from Northern Expansion Part I)
My limited time in Uganda prevented me from traveling north to Acholiland where TCON has recently expanded it’s efforts. Instead, the Gulu leaders came to Craig and I to discuss future plans. The lunch meeting lasted less than a few hours, yet the conversations from this particular meeting have echoed in my mind and heart repeatedly since that afternoon.
In psychology there is a term called countertransference that refers to the emotional experience of a therapist in connection to the patient. In certain psychological theories, countertransference is deemed an enemy to the therapeutic process. In other relationally-oriented theories, countertransference is simply viewed as another tool for understanding your patient and all that they are bringing to the relationship. You can likely guess which camp I fall into. The therapist in me showed up for that particular meeting (I find it difficult to ever really set it aside). As I sat and took in stories of traumatized children – children who were abducted, forced to murder their own family members for survival, children who were tortured and raped – it was only natural to focus intently on the impact of trauma written on the faces of the women sharing these stories. (more…)
In Uganda, the people are intimately connected to the land. This was one realization I had last week as I braved the “highway” east from Kampala, across the Nile in Jinja to Mbale, and eventually back north to Soroti. The soil glows a rich, reddish-orange color underneath the bright green variations of trees, grasses, and various crops. It seems possible that almost anything would grow and yield fruit in Uganda! And the people are not ignorant to this fact. The setting I’ve described along the road is never lacking people who work the land. Gardens and farms are like grains of sand: innumerable. (more…)