Yesterday the United States awoke to the news of a horrific shooting rampage that took place in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater shortly after the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight. The most recent reports confirmed that twelve people were killed and nearly 70 total injured.  While these kinds of events are sadly too common in recent US history, the scale of this crime rivals some of the worst massacres in this nation’s history. This weekend, Americans are collectively spending time trying to comprehend just how this kind of horrendous crime could take place. But as much debate over those issues that takes place in the next few weeks, the majority of people will have moved on in a rather short time.  Our culture has a generally short attention span, and new stories will overtake headlines sooner than later. Closer to Aurora, though, those who were directly impacted by the tragedy will continue to deal with the overwhelming realities. They will begin to make sense of how their lives are forever changed, and how they will be defined moving forward. (more…)

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 fighting has left us with a lot of scars- but that is not where our story ends.” -Patongo Primary School Teacher

The 2006 documentary War Dance follows the journey of a group of primary school musicians from the town of Patongo in Northern Uganda, all the way to the nation’s capital of Kampala.  The children are traveling to compete in Uganda’s National Music & Dance Festival. But the trip is about more than a competition.  These Acholi kids represent a region devastated by the rebel group the LRA, and they are only recently coming to terms with the trauma they have experienced while living in IDP camps.

Patongo Students Prepare for Competition

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Joseph Kony of the LRA

Uganda grabbed international headlines over the weekend following the announcement on Friday by President Obama to send 100 troops into Africa in order to aid in the hunt for Joseph Kony and leaders of the infamous LRA.  While it isn’t the first time the US has been involved in this effort (US officials “advised” during Operation Lightning Thunder and have directed millions of dollars in connection to the 2009 LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act ), it is the most direct action to date.  The decision caught most people by surprise and has been receiving mixed reaction across the board.  The reality is that the majority of Americans are largely unfamiliar with Joseph Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and even Uganda itself.  This is not to discount groups like Invisible Children and Enough Project who have fought tirelessly over the last decade to put the issue of the LRA front and center domestically.  They should be commended for their efforts in advocacy at times like this.  But in the US, there remains a tendency to generalize when speaking about anything in “Africa”.  The LRA and Joseph Kony can quickly become just one more of “those problems” in “Africa”.  In this case, some context is important when asking how to fight a problem like a rogue rebel group that has committed unspeakable atrocities and remained elusive for more than two decades. (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…)