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…)

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…)

Mallory McPherson is a TCON volunteer on the 2011 team of supporters. Her first visit was back in 2006 when TCON was still young and developing. This time around, Mallory volunteered to contribute journalistic pieces for TCON’s blog. She currently lives in Colorado and is a student at Denver University.

It is easy to come to Uganda and be unsure of how to feel. I first came to visit my uncle, Dave McPherson (TCON’s Founding Director) and see what he was doing out here five years ago in 2006. A total of 24 hours of flying and 8 hours of driving (involving five foot potholes and an overturned double-decker) led us to a conference center with shrieking women packed like sardines in a can. As we entered the room, they immediately began praising my uncle, and in turn my whole family. I was aware that Dave moved here to “help” the widows, but I was unaware of how many were a part of the organization, how exactly he was helping, and why I was receiving this praise.

I did not understand at the age of 12, who these women were. I knew they had been discarded by society, but to me, they were receivers of my dad’s money and my uncle’s hard work. This mindset made me feel guilt for the life I had, the problems I didn’t have. 

As we traveled through Soroti’s town center, we came across a white preacher promising hundreds a cure from HIV/AIDS if they gave their souls to Jesus. This made my soul cry. It is not hard to see the corruption in Uganda. This is something I still notice here, but now I am more aware to the cultural sexism which many of the widows’ problems stem from. (more…)

In 2006, TCON released a documentary which showcased the plight of widows throughout Uganda. We have grown immensely as an organization since the release of this documentary, yet it still captures the beginning of our story and offers a glimpse into the lives of the women we are committed to serving.