Friday, March 26, 2010

A matter of terminology

FSP Coordinator, Anne, was struggling with terminology but has finally found the answers.

Talk of the changing situation in the north. For a long time it was conflict and conflict and conflict. Now it is time for people to re-settle into their original homes. Over 70% of FSP beneficiaries were displaced into the municipality. And the FSP strategy of family strengthening provides for withdrawal of families who gain self reliance.

In the current situation, some families in Gulu are leaving the programme area to go back to their original homes. Will they also be reported to have been withdrawn? That can’t be. How about those who are uncooperative and all efforts to empower them have been received with cold hands?

This has been a battle in the programme and we finally settled for the following words:
Withdrawn for those who are phased off upon gaining self reliance.
Relocated for those who have gone back to their original homes.
Discontinued for those who are uncooperative or unwilling to work hard to gain self reliance as a family.

But that does not end the story; there are also those who have partly relocated but their children continue to study in town. They go to their village for holidays and this we refer to it as partial relocation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Children’s library opens at the SOS Social Centre Gulu

A new children’s library recently opened at SOS Social Centre Gulu. It is the only children’s library in Gulu and was opened following donations of books by various organisations including UNICEF, Vision in Action, and the Gulu Rotary Club. The Gulu NGO Forum donated a computer which, it is hoped, funds permitting, is the first of many that will be in the library and will one day be connected to the internet. Another local community-based organisation donated the all-essential book shelves.

The aim of the new children’s library is to allow children access to resources which will enhance their education and create a reading culture. Fittingly, children were involved in the planning process and will be trained by an SOS Social Centre co-worker as volunteers in the library when they are not at school, and particularly during the school holidays. It is intended that the library, which also contains educational toys, will be used by all the children of the Gulu community and by local schools.

The opening ceremony, at which children thanked the donors, was attended by the local community and leaders of the local district council who said that the facility will go a long way to helping local children.

Once the library was declared open several children dived into the book shelves and sat down at the reading tables, totally absorbed in the books. The only noise came from the adults who were being shown around.

The verdict was ten out of ten for five year old Nancy, a local child from the community who commented, “I have seen some good books – I will continue coming here”.

Monday, February 08, 2010


On 31st January 2010, 14 Village Directors from 10 different countries converged at the SOS Regional Training and Resource Centre (RTRC) in Karen, Nairobi-Kenya to attend the first Continental Village Director Training, from 1st to 12th February 2010. Since our arrival, we have shared a lot of experiences and joys. To some of us it’s really a good opportunity, helping us to refresh our minds and to think outside the box as well.

I would like to share with you one experience, which will never leave our memories. This was a team building activity in which we were tasked to participate in several scary activities. On 2nd February, we boarded a minibus very early in the morning and went to a location about 100km north-east of Nairobi.

On reaching there, we were warmly received by Mr. Savage, the proprietor. At that moment, we could not figure out the kind of team building activities we were going to do. A team of 4 instructors came, divided us into two groups and briefed us on what we were going to do. In the morning we did activities like wall climbing, spider web, trust fall and land mine and in the afternoon we went for water rafting on the River Tana.

The morning activities were really hard. They required a lot of perseverance, planning and collective participation. They inflicted a lot of fear on most of us. We finally had to get out of our comfort zone to accomplish those difficult tasks.

But the morning activities were just an icebreaker. It’s when we were told to board the minibus to go for water rafting that we started getting worried. Although we were given life jackets and helmets to wear for our safety, we felt uncomfortable. Our discomfort grew from time to time, more so for some of us who had never stepped a foot in water to swim. We were all filled with unbearable fear: fear of water, fear of the unknown, fear of waterfalls and above all, fear of drowning in the water.

Yes, there was no way of escaping. As soon as the minibus dropped us to the starting point, it left. The only way to travel back to the camp site was by water, a journey that took us over 3 hours. Each one of us was given a paddle and told to enter the water. All of us had to paddle, following the instructions given by our leaders. We could at times paddle forward or backward, fall on the right or left of the raft and hold on the raft. All these actions had to be done collectively or else the raft could easily capsize.

Mr. Savage, like his name, is a bad-turned-into-good person. When we reached somewhere, he stubbornly and mercilessly sprinkled water with his paddle onto us that made us wet. As if that was not enough, he pushed us with his paddle, one by one, off the raft into the deep water. It was a shocking experience for me. The first time I nervously struggled to come afloat and ended up swallowing several litres of water. He did it to me the second and the third time as if he was only targeting me. But we were all treated alike by Mr. Savage. After rafting half the journey, we got used to it and the fear somehow reduced. We reached our destination and Mr. Savage finally turned out to be a good friend to everyone.
I no longer fear water. The experience has even motivated us to be adventurous and persevering. Just a pity I couldn’t take my camera onto the river!