Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Joyce and Sarah

(Written before Peace Camp)
Making small progress is the essence of Peace Corps. Nothing happens over night.
This was a lesson hard for me to learn, but is now one I have come to accept, and even embrace.
The girls have started opening up to me, proving that taking time to build a foundation of trust is an essential aspect of this work. Maybe that is why Peace Corps Volunteers serve for 2+ years…
It barely even seems like enough time.
I have been mysteriously ill for quite some time, and had to be in the capitol city, Kampala for almost an entire month. Thankfully, I returned to Gulu just in time for my girls’ visitation day. "Visitation day" happens once a term, and it is the only time family members ever visit their children at boarding school. Since my girls have little or no family, it is important that I am there to support them.
I talked to each of them individually for almost an hour a piece. This post is about my interactions with Olympia Joyce and Akii Sarah.
Joyce fearfully giggled, looking down at her feet, as she told me that there is something she had been aching to talk to me about… but that she had been scared to do so.
Of course, I thought she was pregnant.
She told me something that I had already known, yet she had not yet told me. When the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped her and she was in the bush, she had been shot in the leg. The bullet left a large and unfriendly scar that she clearly is very insecure about. She told me it made her feel “really bad about herself.”
So while I was waiting for her to tell me that she was pregnant, she sheepishly asked me if I could buy her some Vaseline...
She also assured me that she is a virgin.
Sarah was the most confident I’ve ever seen her. While I was there, we picked up her midterm results… and whereas last time she placed 95 out of 107 students, this time she placed 59th! …And this is the girl I had to beg to get into school because of her academic history, and poor test scores.
It was priceless seeing her proud of herself… She even joined the girl’s rugby team! Who would have thought?
…After we talked happily for a while, she nonchalantly brought up the fact that her mother had been poisoned.  Why?  Because a neighbor was jealous that Sarah was getting her school fees paid. (In a previous post, I talk about how Sarah was once almost poisoned for the same reason just months before).  I could not believe it.  I didn't know what to say.  I didn't know what to do.  It was my fault.  She told me how her mom would now lie on a mat outside all day without moving. 
After hearing that, I, being the wannabe psychologist that I am, said that it must be hard having to deal with what’s going on at home. 
She said “Auntie, I forget about it all when I am here.”


At Peace Camp I got a phone call from Sarah.  The network was horrible out there, and I could not really understand what she was saying.  I thought I heard "My mom is dying in the hospital," but she had said "My mom has malaria and is in the hospital."  I asked her about how her mom has been since the poisoning incident.  What did she say?

"Oh some people came to our house to pray... she is now okay."

I shake my head in disbelief.  What do I say to that?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Peace Camp - The Aftermath

I have talked little about my health in this blog.  Well here it is in a nutshell:  I’ve had malaria three times (in Uganda), Bilharzia/Schistosomiasis (which basically means my body was infested with snail eggs as a result of bathing in dirty water), and intestinal worms (which I could actually see through my skin).  Additionally, I have been experiencing some reoccurring symptoms throughout the past six months, which neither I, nor the Peace Corps have been able to get to the bottom of.
Peace Camp left me (and many others) feeling both emotionally drained, and physically sick. After experiencing such an intense week, where we were both emotionally and literally isolated from the outside word (including not having internet or phone access), adjusting back into “reality” was difficult.  And as a result, my mysterious symptoms returned full-blown.  Since I got in trouble for not telling Peace Corps when I had malaria the first time, I have consciously made an effort to keep them in the loop regarding my health.  So I called them and told them what was going on…
The next morning, I woke up to a phone call explaining that Peace Corps has decided to “medically evacuate” me.  This means that they would send me home (or to Washington D.C. presumably) for roughly a month to visit doctors and be medically evaluated.  Yeah, a bath and some Mexican food sounds great… BUT my concern is as follows: Most people that are medically evacuated are not allowed back into country.  And I am just not finished here.
So, as I am trying to process Peace Camp, and reacclimate back into my Gulu life, and my work at Aid Africa, I’ve now been bombarded with this on top of everything.  They want me to leave “sometime this week,” and suggest that I pack as though I would “not be returning.”
So, in an attempt to stay in control of my own life, I have written to Peace Corps headquarters asking that they give me one month.  During this month, I plan to take a proactive role in decreasing unhealthy habits, and focusing intensely on bettering my health.  I will let you all know when I receive their response.
My phone keeps on ringing with unknown numbers.  This is not necessarily uncommon as I swear people sell my phone number...  I have been tired, sick, and in an introverted emotional state, so I haven’t wanted to answer… BUT, knowing that I gave my phone number out to about 80 people during Peace Camp, with a note, “I will always be here for you if you need someone to talk to,” I have been feeling obliged to pick up.
One of my shyest campers was excited to tell me that she facilitated a discussion within her family regarding their land disputes.
Another asked if we were still at camp because he wanted to come back.
Some are talking about starting their own “Peace Clubs.”
Most of them are asking me to send them photos.
And my particular favorite comes from a young man who proudly stated that he has “converted 30 people into peace pioneers.”
These are the moments that fuel my fire, and help me to realize that no matter how little it feels like it, I am indeed making a difference.
Day 7 of Peace Camp was a disaster.  Cleaning up and getting the “kids” ready to go home was nothing compared to the issue of trying to get their transportation funds reimbursed.  We were all tired and stressed, and unfortunately, this caused some issues amongst the staff.
Nonetheless, Peace Camp has hands down been my most rewarding experience in Peace Corps, thus far.
I want to thank those of you who have joined me on my reflective journey, and give a particular thanks to Kate Scurria for allowing me to use (some) of her photos.
If you are itching to see more, please check out my facebook album: “Peace Camp.”
Apwoyo matek, and may you be blessed on your journeys through this crazy thing called life as well.
Lots of Love, Always,
Akot Jenna

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Day 6 of Peace Camp - The Way Forward

Day 6 of Peace Camp-August 17, 2012
The energy of today was different.
I assume that the content of the week, particularly yesterday has left all of us physically exerted, emotionally exhausted, and spiritually drained.
The cheers this morning were quiet, and there is less laughter in the air.
The theme of today shifted from healing to action.  What will you do next with the new tools this camp has given you?
For our first session of the day, we invited 3 Peace Camp attendees from last year to share their experiences after attending Peace Camp 2011.  The campers were especially inspired by one man in particular who had not only started a “Peace Club” in his community, but who had also organized a “Peace Day” in which hundreds attended.  Because of his active involvement in his community, and his emersion as a leader, this young man is now a member of the Local Council Government.
It just shows you what these kids can make of themselves once given the chance.
The campers then hit the stage to perform whatever group project there group had decided to unravel.  For two long hours, we watched dramas, song performances, and poetry readings.  Even though I felt mentally displaced, the campers did not want to stop.  Even Scovia, one of my girls, who has been unusually introverted for the past few months got up to perform a song.

After lunch, we met in our small groups to engage in some one-on-one counseling.  Since the professional counselors were a bust, we had to lead this session ourselves… Which I did not mind at all, and actually, I think I did a pretty damn good job.
Given the choice, all the girls in my group chose to talk to me, while the boys chose my male Ugandan counterpart.  What did they want to talk about? Not the war… sex, love, and relationships.
Given that I feel my place in this world is to empower young women, I was honored that they felt so comfortable with me, and embraced the subject whole-heartedly, knowing that they probably don’t have anyone else to turn to.
One girl, we’ll call her Maggie, came to me though with a serious matter.  There has been a student teacher at her school who teaches computer classes and is sexually harassing her.  He has outright told her he wants her, and displays manipulative behavior like asking her to stay after class alone.  On one particular day of making her stay after class, she was working on typing something he had asked her to, and he put porn on the computer screen.  He has not “yet” touched her, she says, but she fears that it is only a matter of time…  Maggie is one of the most confident young women I have met in Uganda, and she says she is now afraid to be herself and even to go to school.  She “doesn’t like who she is anymore” because of him.
She won’t go to her Mom, because she knows that her Mom will confront this man, and she feels confronting him will only put her in danger.  She also doesn’t want to go to the administration because inevitably word would get around that this “popular and handsome teacher” lost his job because of her, and she would be ostracized from her community.  In a culture where people are commonly poisoned for less, Maggie’s concerns are extremely valid.
In attempt to keep both her and myself protected,  I’m not going to publicly tell you how I plan to handle this situation.  If you would like to know, please feel free to message me privately.
I am now feeling physically ill, so while the campers were out planting trees, I had to lie down.
Since today was technically the last day of Peace Camp, following dinner, we had a certificate ceremony.  Ugandans LOVE certificates… They collect them like gold, which is quite endearing. So the mood became much lighter than it had been the rest of the day, and the ceremony served as a perfect segue into their dance party.
We were going to hold their dance party outside around the bonfire, but, as one of my wise, Peace Corps Volunteer colleagues said: “We can’t do that… they will sneak off and make babies.”  …So we had the dance in the compound where we felt a little bit more in control… That is until we all felt old and tired, and went to sleep.

*Big exhale*

Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 5 of Peace Camp - The Real Story

Day 5 of Peace Camp-August 16, 2012

(Warning: War stories could potentially be triggering.)
Today was the day the youth began to open up.
The theme of today was “Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” and started out with an introductory session lead by an enthusiastic Ugandan facilitator.  We talked about the importance of reconciliation in the process of healing, as an individual and as a nation.  A few campers (including Joyce!) sang songs they had written about forgiveness, while others shared their personal stories.
During our “sports and games” session, I decided to check in with one very shy girl who goes to school with my other girls.  She said she was not having fun, and requested that I call her teacher so that he could tell me about her life.  I asked if she could tell me instead…
Alaroker Joyce Lillian was abducted when she was five years old, along with both of her parents.  I didn’t “pick” how long she stayed in the bush, but I do know that eventually, they managed to escape by tying themselves together by rope, and wading across the Nile river, which she called “the sea.”
Fast forward to the age of 18, Joyce’s parents are coming home from a burial on a bicycle; a bus driving too fast crashes into them, stealing the lives of both Joyce’s parents, and even the unborn child.  Now Joyce must go live with her “lame” brother who is not able to work because of his condition, and is therefore unable to pay her school fees.  His wife, Joyce’s sister-in-law abuses her both verbally and psychically-even going so far as to deny her food. Now that she is 19 years old, Joyce fears that her sister-in-law is going to marry her off.
I feel so helpless to see girls like Joyce disempowered.  I want to give them the life of opportunity they deserve, but how can I?  I feel as though I have the ability to support them psychologically…  But I don’t have the resources to support them in any other way.  For a girl in this country to have the chance to create a life other than the one that has been laid out for her, it is imperative that she go to school. Right now, with the support of all of you, we are helping six girls do just that-and are struggling more and more as each trimester passes…  But what about Joyce?
If anyone would be interested in sponsoring her, please let me know.
The next session of the day was lead by another PCV.  The topic-goal setting.  He started off by asking each camper to take out a piece of paper and write down what they want to be in “some few years
A doctor
A lawyer who does not accept bribes
A peacemaker
A police woman
A midwife
A professor
“…The distance between you and these papers,” the facilitator said, “is a plan.”
But I can’t help to continue to feel discouraged today.  School fees are a major problem in this country.  How can they be empowered to formulate their plans without being given equal access to education?
Today we really encouraged the youth to share their personal stories during our small group reflection time.  As an outsider, I decided to sit back and let my Ugandan co counselor facilitate the discussion.  Culturally, there is a lot of shame associated with being abducted, so telling their stories is not something that comes easy-but is something that is crucial to the healing process.  Though they spoke with little emotion (probably avoidance), once one of them took the leap, most of them followed.  None of the campers in my group have both of their parents living, and the majority of them have been totally orphaned.  Most of the boys had been abducted as child soldiers, and the girls-you can only imagine.

Christopher, one of the campers that I hadn’t originally chosen, shared his story first, and carried an immense amount of bravery, as he spoke about having to kill innocent people, and about his escape.  Hearing the intensity of his experience, I felt guilty that I had not originally accepted his application… And I couldn’t help but wonder about what other amazing and courageous youth I might have also overlooked.  What touched me most about Christopher’s story was that after all he had been through; he still believed that Kony should not be killed if captured, but rather, that he should be welcomed back into his community…  I don’t know if I could ever have that kind of forgiveness in my heart.
I know Esther had been in the bush for 3 years and 8 months, but I did not know her story, nor did I want to push it.  Rather than share her story in the group, she asked if she could write it down for me, and even encouraged me to share it with all of you.  Verbatim, here is her story:
“Real story.  I could not believe that this could really happen when my own father who gave birth to me calling me all sorts of names that I am Kony, am being raped by Kony, that also I should also go back to the bush because I will kill him on his land because am Kony which kill people.
It became worst when ever my society member started calling me Kony and that am the wife to Kony, most especially when I was at school till my sister had to transfer me since I lost another.
So I thought of going back to the bush at least then to suffer from the father who thought that am different from his own children.
Luck enough my sister the one who was taking (care) of me when I was still childhood to now as I talk up to now.
The memories still comes to my mind like nightmares, the sound of the earoplane (airplane) and the ghost of the person I killed but through prayer and the psycotromous (psycho traumatic?) clinic in Soroti helping me to give me some of the drugs which removes nightmares, stress and worries.  I remember when the rebels cained me all day fifty slashes of sticks till I lost my sense but good enough rain splash helped me not to die; again I was made to killed the person and even eat the brain which was serious, I could walk without eating, walking long distance bullets and guns and eroplanes till when I learnt how to shoot a gun and sent to loot peoples’ property and I was shot on the right leg but didn’t die, could walk and we looted things and on going back we slept in some deserted home where I managed to escape back up to the barracks where I was given help and taken to gulu world vision for concelling & guidance after I left to home.
On reaching home, people could not believe that I was the one even my own mother and other relatives of which they were telling me that am dead because my cousin sister told them that she left when I was dead of which even the ceremony for my death was being carried out already, so till they gather people to settle the case then I was accepted as one of the lost child, as the prodigal son in the bible.
Last what bores me at home is my own father for the words he always keeps on telling me.
If my sister would (not) be there, I would be miserable in street but I have to suffer looking for pocket money and buying things for going back to school as my sister is also paying for her own children and the husband dont allow her pay my fees, of which stopped this year.  I struggle working and digging to earn school fees for my fees but these does not mean the end of my life but really I would like to study and become an important person in future.”

I can’t even begin to find the words to tell you about the Forgiveness Ceremony we held tonight.  These former abductees were forced to kill each other in the most horrific of ways.  They are the true victims of this war.  If they refused to do as the rebels said, they would be tortured, raped, and killed.  Some were even forced to chop up body parts of their community members, and even to kill their own parents.
During the ceremony, two tribes would face each other and speak vulnerably about the atrocities that had been committed against them, and about the atrocities their own people had committed against the other tribe.  They would then ask for forgiveness.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

The Acholis got it the worst.  Many of them psychologically broke down…
Watching Daniel break down during the ceremony was what took me over the edge.  He was the only one who spoke of having to kill innocent people on his application, and it was very apparent tonight, that he still deeply suffers from PTSD.
In Daniel’s group as they shared stories, one young man named Geoffrey spoke of a raid he was a part of in a particular village…
“On Independence day?” Daniel intervened.  Geoffrey nodded.  “I was there that day, but I escaped” Daniel said.  “It was during that raid that my brother was killed.”  They stared at each other for an intense moment, as though realizing their brotherhood.  Though, I can only imagine that they must have been thinking “You could have killed me.” Or “I could have killed you.”
At the Forgiveness Ceremony, Geoffrey courageously stood before his peers and tribal “enemies,” and told his story.  I asked if he wouldn’t mind writing it down, and letting me share it:
“On 11-April-2003 I’m being abducted by those of Kony rebels at around 10:00 pm.  They take me to the bush.  At that night they went with me during all the night. Then we reach at day times, That day in the morning, they take me to under commander called BOUGY for some questions, and I’m been questioned about my parent weather they are there.  From there they told me that if allows to take rebels to my parent so that my parent to killed.  I told them that I am lost both of my parent.  After saying that I’m lost my parent, they tighten me with ropes to be beaten, and they were using panga (machete) to beat me.  So to make tells the thing truly;  I said to them that I’m not lying them they refuse.
One day one time there was a journey to Sudan country so we the abducties we were force to cross the boundary of Uganda and Sudan very quickly because the area is very danger I manage to cross.  After crossing I hard (heard) the sound of the boom at the back where most of the people are standing.  By that time people were scared, no where to run, some of the civilian were died.  By that time I was in Sudan country and some of the people remained in Uganda.  Then we stayed in Sudan for two month.
We got access to comes back to Uganda, I realized that I was going to died.
After crossing we were been deployed to various Districts in Northern Uganda.  Those who were remain in Uganda begun hurt just because of going to Sudan.  ACHOLI peoples I was treated in the bad ways:
ALL my clothes were removed from my body and they left me necked, I walk for three months necked in bush.
When there is a time for sleeping always tighten me with ropes both legs & hands.
Times for food they don’t allows to heat food, they only gives me raw-beans to eat.  They used to make (us eat) bone which lasted for 2 or 3 weeks.
Forcing to kill innocent people without and I killed with the intention to saved lives. (?)
From 2003 to 2006 that I take a chance to escape from those of L.R.A. (Joseph Kony)
Thank you the story too long I cannot narrate all.
Geoffrey’s story was one of many.  And listening to all of them has left me physically and emotionally shattered.  I can only hope that today, as these individuals shared their stories, and heard the likes of others, that they will never again feel like they are alone in the world.
“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, 'I survived'.” –Chris Cleave

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Day 4 of Peace Camp - Facing Fears and Keeping Tradition

Day 4 of Peace Camp-August 15, 2012
The “ropes course” was designed by two Americans under the guise of “The Recreation Project.”   The aim of the Recreation Project is to encourage war-affected youth to face their fears, and to “challenge patterns of war through active healing experiences” by engaging in fun-but intensive activities and obstacle course.  Such activities give participants the necessary tools for team building, positive communication, and critical thinking… Brilliant!

“You’ll find yourself a changed person by the end of the day,” Zach, one of the creators of the course opened the day with. “But that’s only if you push yourself to be uncomfortable…”


One of the stations at the ropes course is called the “leap of faith.”  This is when participants climb a tree (attached to a harness) and jump off, trying to catch a bar that is floating in the air.  Everyone was terrified.


(Real time) I have to remove myself from the group because I’m too emotional after what I just saw.  We have a differently-abled camper who is in a wheelchair as a result of Polio, and has very little use of his legs. Nonetheless, he has been very active.  He even joined us in yoga yesterday, and today, decided also to take the “leap of faith.”  With dozens of other campers watching and cheering, Opiyo Dennish did just that.  Though it was challenging for him, he climbed the tree, and he jumped.  I was so inspired by his determination and courage.  What moved me the most, however, was the roaring support of his peers.  In a culture where differently-abled people are referred to as “parasites,” Opiyo Dennish defied all boundaries, and took one giant leap of faith for all differently-abled people, everywhere.

Olympia Joyce was nowhere to be seen during the “leap of faith.”  Though she is one of “my girls,” she is not in my camper group.  I did that intentionally, as she is a shy person by nature, and I wanted to challenge her a bit.  When her camp counselor (Aubrey) and I finally did find her (it seemed as though she had been hiding), we pleaded with her that she at least try the “leap of faith.” With tears forming in her eyes, she outright refused.  After a lot of counseling and encouragement though, she finally did decide to try.  Though I could see the terror in her face as she hesitated at the top of the tree, she eventually conquered her fear… and jumped.  And when it was all over, she was glowing with pride.  And so was I.
The Recreation Project facilitator closed the “leap of faith” activity by saying: “Today, you have faced your fears and have taken a leap of faith… By the end of this year, what other leaps of faith will you challenge yourself to take?
Because the war lasted for over 20 years, many of these young people missed out on a lot of their lives.  The war halted their education, and amongst other things, deprived them of their cultural and tribal traditions.  For tonight’s bonfire, we invited tribal elders to talk to the youth about each of their cultural traditions, and sat around the fire, as they do, while we listened to their stories.  Then, as a gift to each elder, each of the four tribes performed their tribal dances. 

The evening felt authentic and organic, and was the perfect closing to an incredible day.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Day 3 of Peace Camp - Sex, Yoga, and Taekwondo

Day 3 of Peace Camp-August 14, 2012
The day started out as it does each day, with the raising of the Ugandan flag, the singing of the National anthem, and introductions and cheers from each group. 

The “kids” were surprisingly energized as we finished our morning porridge and tea, and headed off to our first session:  Nonviolent Communication, which was immediately followed by a session focusing on Income Generating Activities (IGAs):  How to create and implement a concept that will generate individual income, and thus empower the youth (particularly the women) to become independent.

For our reproductive health session, we split up the boys and girls, and created a safe space to talk something very taboo: sex. Of course the girls were very shy at first, but my fellow PCV, Rebecca, did an amazing job facilitating in a very non threatening way:
“Today we are going to talk about VAGINAS…  What are we going to talk about?”
“Vaginas,” the girls whispered.
“Today we are going to talk about PENISES… What are we going to talk about?”
 “…But first we are going to talk about our bodies,” she said, and pulled out a detailed diagram of the female reproductive system.”  The girls seemed genuinely curious, as I am quite sure they had never before seen such a thing.

Slowly, they began to open up and ask questions.  I think they started to feel comfortable because the PCVs who were in the session, talked freely and openly about sex.  We talked about puberty, erections, wet dreams, the menstrual cycle, and sexual urges.  This made it easy to transition to the topic of sex.

Using wooden penises, we practiced putting on condoms, and began to denounce some common cultural myths…
You can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex.
If you jump up and down after sex, the semen will fall out.
You have the same chance of contracting HIV if you wear a condom or not.
Condoms can be reused.
…And so on, and so on.
Though I wish we delved into the aspect of boundary setting, and saying “no” when we don’t want to “play sex,” we at least provided the girls with some informational tools, that will undoubtedly empower them… Because when we are in charge of our own bodies, then we are in control of our lives.
During our yoga class, I was immediately taken back to my dancing days. Oh how I achingly miss dancing. I swear if I had had the “right body,” I would have pursued dancing as a career… But I do know that I am doing the work I am meant to do.  Still, as we went through poses and stretches, I couldn’t help but think I’ve still got it!

I think the campers really liked it as well… though I’m pretty sure they think a lot of the things we mzungus do are quite strange.  From one extreme to the other, we then went to a Tae Kwon Do class, which most of (the boys) liked more, though I did not share their same sentiment.

Even though everyone was exhausted, we had to practice the drama we are to perform as small groups on Friday.  I don’t know if I have mentioned this yet, but I have two non-hearing campers, Aron and Dominic, who were both the most incredible actors.

My Ugandan co counselor however, is something else.  I think he thinks he is a camper.  I often have to remind him to translate for Aron and Dominic (which is his primary role), and that we as counselors are not supposed to answer questions during the sessions.  Ha!  Sometimes it irritates me, but mostly it just amuses me… especially when he decided to direct and star in a group’s drama.
Unfortunately, since we were late to most of our sessions all day (ahem-“African time”), we weren’t able to have our group reflections like we are supposed to do each day.  But after supper, we split up into two large groups, and one went to learn about HIV, while the other went to an art session.  During our art session, we played music as the campers decorated empty water bottles with fabric and ribbon, so that they could fill them up with sand, and use them as candle holders for our nightly vigil.
I know the campers had so much fun today. I just hope that we can get to all the nitty gritty stuff in the days that will follow.

Day 2 of Peace Camp - Theatre, Dance, and Activism

Day 2 of Peace Camp-August 13, 2012
(I guess it's important to note that these are personal reflections based in my own perception, are not meant to be offensive, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of all attendees.)
During a play put on by the “Rafiki” theatre, it really concerned me-the moments when the “kids” would laugh. The play was about domestic violence and women’s rights. Examples acted out included a woman wanting to go back to school, and another saying “no” to sex.  When the male actor would act out beating the woman, or even throwing her down on the ground to rape her, the audience would laugh… why did they laugh? 
And when an actor said that women are to be submissive because the Bible says she comes from the rib of the man, everyone cheered.  In the play, the woman told her husband that she wanted to go back to school. As a result, she was beaten.  In a discussion afterwards, some campers suggested that her approach be different.  The facilitator asked someone in the audience to demonstrate what that would look like, and when a female volunteer walked to the front of the room, the young men in the group started objecting, saying that another volunteer should be chose because the young woman who was picked was wearing pants-not a skirt, and that showed “no respect.”  She didn’t seem affected by these comments, and continued to demonstrate an alternative approach to requesting permission to go to school, that would be a little but more culturally appropriate. So what did she do?  She knelt down on her knees and softly pleaded to her husband grant her permission…
It seems as though “respect” to one’s husband in this culture is equivalent to being submissive and obedient.  When we approached the subject in smaller groups, there was a consensus amongst the young men that culturally, the woman is not to be superior.  If a woman completes a higher level of education, or earns more money than the man that she married, he will be left feeling insecure. 
“The more that she studies, the more men she gets... Then she will leave us.”
“The higher they go, the more undisciplined they become.” 
These examples of insecurity are often the root cause of domestic violence.

"Rafiki" theatre actors: (The women in front is an incredible activist, and facilitator, and has become my new favorite person).

To facilitate our self-esteem talk, I had invited my friend, and 2011 CNN hero of the year award winner, Sister Rosemary. Unfortunately, but not all that unusual, she had to back out at the last minute. So, upon recommendation, I invited another strong and successful woman to step in, who, to my surprise, decided to change the discussion topic and give a health class rather than a self-esteem talk. During our reflection session later in the day, my campers singled this session out as the worst of the day. Fail.
Thankfully, the day was rectified by our tribal dance rehearsal.  All it took for me to say was “you have one hour to plan and practice for a 15 minute tribal dance performance” -and they were off.  I don’t know if they were born dancing, but immediately they were in sync-in formation and in moves. Everyone knew exactly where to be and what to do, and I didn’t have to do anything.  I loved stepping back and watching them work together with such organization and enthusiasm… But I couldn’t stand still for long, and just had to join in. After all, it is the African rhythm that moves my soul.

Prior to Peace Camp, one of the eight professional psychologists I invited asked me if they were going to get paid.  Since we had lost our grant money, I wrote an email to all eight of them explaining our situation, and asked them if they would, in good faith, offer their services in exchange for transport costs, meals, and a camp shirt.  I then called them each individually to make sure they had received my email, and to ask them if they were still on board.  They all obliged.  So you can imagine my confusion (and fury) when they demanded compensation.  When I reiterated what we had repeatedly talked about before, they also reacted in fury, claiming to have received no such information… are you kidding me?!  At the end of such a long day, this made me feel crazy. Additionally, it was brought to our attention that one of the psychologists actually told one of the campers that women “incite rape” by the way we dress.  Sigh… maybe this whole “psychologist” thing wasn’t such a good idea after all. 
I missed the first half of the next “Rafiki” theatre’s play because I wanted to “bathe” and wash some clothes.  When I did arrive, I was immediately moved by, and immersed in their discussion about tribalism.  Since the LRA rebels abducted children and forced them to abduct and kill others (often from other tribes), many tribes have yet to reconcile. This has created a large divide amongst tribes in the North. Northerners in general are fiercely discriminated against as a whole people by the rest of the country.  They are commonly called “Kony” (in reference to the LRA leader, Joseph Kony), and taunted in school, labeled as killers.  Even when I found out I would be serving in the North, I can’t tell you how many non-Northerner Ugandans warned me about how “bad those people are,” and how they “kill each other.”  …I’ve actually never met kinder people who have been victimized more.  One of the goals of Peace Camp is to build unity amongst tribes, who have been divided by this war.  I think this play and the discussion that followed planted that seed.

And the day ended with a moving candlelight vigil.