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*

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