We are thrilled that Rachael Capone has joined our team for the summer. Not only is she a passionate bundle of energy, but her experience and desire to assist vulnerable populations in post-conflict regions makes her an excellent fit for our organization. Below is a brief bio to offer you all a glimpse of this great addition to our team: (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.
“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 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…)
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…)
(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…)
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…)