In more than thirty years as a widow, I’ve never seen a group work with widows like this. Never.” - Kristin Lokwea Bungatira, Gulu District
Traveling through northern Uganda last week, the long rural roads led us to groups of women, typically waiting under the shade of an enormous tree. They had assembled together because we asked them to meet us as part of our survey of TCON’s agricultural initiatives. In March, we coordinated maize and bean seed to reach over 30,000 similar women- mostly widows, caring for children and orphans, working to rebuild stable lives in this post-conflict region. Now, with the first planting season of 2012 in the books, it was time to see the results of the seed given. (more…)
“It is time to plant.” The words are spoken from underneath the limited shade of a mango tree in Odek, Northern Uganda. Nearly 1,000 widows have come together today in what is the launch of TCON’s 2012 agricultural initiatives. Over the next month, we will be bringing seeds ahead of the first rains to over 30,000 widows across Acholi. The place, the people, and the strategy are all very important.
This place has been all over international headlines in the last week. Northern Uganda. Acholi Region. Gulu District. The reality of
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.
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 holidays are drawing to a close, and its only natural that we begin to really think about the approaching new year- 2012 is nearly upon us! What kind of posture we have towards a new calendar year is largely tied to how we feel about the year we just finished. There is no shortage of people and media sources summarizing 2011. Top sellers, new trends, impact stories, and favorite movies are all being debated. (Isn’t it obvious? #1: Tree of Life #2: Muppets Movie) Four million people went to YouTube to let Google do the summarizing of 2011 for them.
My mind is having trouble conceiving that Christmas Eve has already arrived this year. As I child, the holiday season felt as though it took forever, creeping at a slow enough pace to intensify my desire for that much anticipated morning event where I would race down the stairs to see what Santa had set aside just for me. Waiting was difficult as a child, especially waiting for something as wonderful as Christmas morning. Perhaps that is when I first learned that to be hopeful, or to live with longing, could be painful at times. (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…)
Since TCON’s birth in 2005 our primary focus has been upon the widows of the TESO sub-region of Uganda. This eastern sub-region is home to an estimated 2.5 million people and it encompasses 8 out 111 different districts throughout all of Uganda. When Dave first connected with Beatrice (our TESO Widow’s Advocate), she had founded a Widows Development Initiative (TEWIDI) with a total of a few hundred women. TCON agreed to come alongside TEWIDI to offer agricultural business initiatives and further development support. Over the past six years the organization has expanded its membership to tens of thousands, with recently-widowed women joining the organization everyday.
A couple of years ago, as relative peace in the northern Acholi sub-region became a reality once the LRA was finally driven out of Uganda, a widow from Gulu heard about what was taking place in TESO. Upon learning of an upcoming conference sponsored by TCON in Soroti, she was determined to attend so that she could see with her own eyes the power of a vulnerable people banded together. What she witnessed challenged her to begin a widows development initiative in the Acholi sub-region. Since she attended that conference two years ago her initiative has grown to 7,000 women and TCON has been actively assisting this organization with similar agricultural projects. (more…)
Beginning this week, TCON will have a team from the USA composed of staff and supporters visiting our field projects in the Teso Region and attending one of our widows conferences. We look forward to sharing stories and reports from a variety of voices in the coming weeks. Today, our newest staff member, Craig Nason, reflects on embarking on his first trip to Uganda.
“Aboka Lam!” – Acholi Proverb roughly translated “Narration alone is inadequate”
On a journey to Peru several years ago, I found myself in a crowded church built on a sandy hilltop an hour north of Lima. The community there was originally founded for migrant workers who moved to the country’s capital looking for work. They were allowed to build crude homes on barren dunes that rose just east of the Pacific break. With the most basic infrastructure absent, a promising future may have seemed fleeting to those who settled there, but it was the best option they had at the time. Over many years, the families of Pachacutec struggled with fathers who would leave town for weeks at a time seeking work and a regular income. Many women were left behind to raise families, and many children would lose touch with their dads entirely. The promises of a better life escaped most. (more…)