When you travel to the northern region of Uganda from Kampala, you will have to cross one of the world’s most famous rivers: the Nile. The Nile River is more than just an incredible force of water that flows with authority from Lake Victoria through to Lake Albert and on to South Sudan. For this largely agrarian country, the Nile River is truly a source of life.  The vast majority of Uganda lies in the Nile Basin, and this geographical reality helps to make the country a rich, fertile land. (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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“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.

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This place has been all over international headlines in the last week. Northern Uganda. Acholi Region. Gulu District. The reality of

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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…)

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.

More personally,

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“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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Wating for Dinner at Teso Widows Conference

Outside of the TCON conference center in Soroti, the cooks were preparing a meal for the ladies in the yard.  This was something I was interested in seeing during my first visit to Uganda.  Its one thing to imagine hundreds of women gathering together for several days at a widows conference, but the practical details like meal planning are harder to envision!  It’s safe to say that the size of the main pot cooking the beans was roughly equivalent to the size of my first car in high school. (more…)