Monday, March 24, 2008
Moving to Gulu
On Tuesday, we packed up and left Kisaasi for Gulu Town. But not before stopping for two very important meetings in Kampala. First, we went to the Buganda Road Court House to support Honorable Otto in his trial brought forth by the government of Uganda. He is facing charges based on an opposition rally hosted by the MP from Kampala central, in which Otto was the guest speaker. Articles covering his arrest and trial can be found on the Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor’s website. Unfortunately, because of car trouble, we were late to the hearing. It has been postponed to April 21st, and he should be tried and sentenced on the same day.
After leaving the court building, we went to Butabika Hospital, a mental health facility in Kampala, to meet with Meredith Zoe Naidorf, a Harvard medical student specializing in trauma counseling. She gave us the contact information for the Alderman Trauma Center in Gulu that was recently opened. We will be getting in touch with them as we begin our art projects with the population in Gulu. Meredith gave us encouragement that in her experience, with the proper counseling, anyone can overcome trauma and become healthy, functioning members of society again.
On our first day in Gulu, Wednesday, March 19th, we went with Cathy Piwang to her ChildReach Africa (CRA) projects in Gulu. That morning, Bishop Ochola surprised us by joining us for breakfast at Bomah hotel, so he went with us to visit the widows in Cathy’s program, as well.
The CRA widows meet in Gulu Town for income-generating embroidery and baking activities. CRA furnished them with a solar oven, a remarkable device that allows them to bake without electricity. They then sell the goods. They also embroidery cloth or cardstock with pretty images of flowers or Acholi huts. To help make their designs more marketable, Dr. Hackett and Cathy have enlisted me with the task or incorporating more distinctively Acholi patterns into their work. We are also going to try to get them making aprons and clothing. I am excited to work with them on the designs.
After the widows, we went to Iriaga camp right outside of town. This is one of the locations that Dr. Hackett, Erin, and I visited in July, and the women here really touched our hearts. We were amazed to see the progress they had made in the last 8 months. The feeling of the visit was completely different! Instead of tears there was laughter and smiles. Rose also resurfaced. Cathy hadn’t been able to find her recently. She sang for us again, and we captured it on video. We have her permission to feature her song on forgiveness and reconciliation along with her embroidery in our upcoming “Dreams and Nightmares” publication. This is going to be a collection of Acholi artwork, song, and literature highlighting the nightmare of the past and the hope for the future.
Also on Monday, we revisited Lacor IDP camp, meeting several of the child mothers there again, too. It was very apparent the difference in condition between Iriaga (very close to town) and Lacor (several kilometers away from Gulu). The resources in Lacor seemed significantly less. Nonetheless, they greeted us wholeheartedly and performed songs and dances for us. We recorded these for the DVD, as well.
The most special part of the day for me was delivering very precious cargo all the way from Franklin, Tennessee. My little sister Arabella who is 7 years old had enthusiastically agreed to send her outgrown clothing to Uganda for the children here. So before I left, I stuffed a 3rd bag full of her clothes and decided to pay the airline’s extra bag fee of $150. Luckily, because of all of the confusion of delayed flights getting here, Northwest was fantastic and waived my extra bag, so the clothing arrived here free of cost.
On Wednesday, I opened this bag of Bella’s clothing for the first time, and joyfully distributed every last piece to the girls of Iriaga and Lacor. The mother’s surprised me by having their children change clothes right there. It was uncanny to look around the crowd and see little girls wearing my sister’s clothes. I particularly loved seeing a little girl named Daffin in a bright blue dress. I took plenty of pictures so that Bella can see how nice it was that she shared with the girls in Northern Uganda. I enjoyed having a piece of home so close to me.