Hello everyone! My name is Meagan Maher. I’m a junior majoring in Peace and Justice Studies and International Relations. This summer I’m working with African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET) in Lira, Uganda. I’ve been getting to know the people in the office, settling in with the family I’m staying with, familiarizing myself with what AYINET is doing by reading the literature they give me, and doing whatever work they give me. AYINET is an organization founded by youth and is currently working on several peacebuilding projects. AYINET has a Youth Leadership Development program, Reconstructive Surgery program, offers medical support, runs athletic and cultural programs for peacebuilding, and is working with local communities to incorporate multimedia into their peacebuilding projects. I’m here primarily to help with the multimedia peacebuilding.
I went to the field for the first time to meet the community partners, primarily peacebuilding project leaders, schoolteachers and schoolchildren, and religious leaders. I went to two separate communities: Alito and Barlonyo. AYINET has an office in each community. In Barlonyo we waited for a while, ate a few mangoes, and started the meeting. After I introduced myself to around twenty implementing partners, we prayed and got down to business.
After I explained what multimedia was, the implementing partners decided that they were interested in being trained for documentation purposes. We decided I would start with written means of documentation and then train them in the basics of photography and videography. We decided on a location and a time, prayed, and I headed off to Alito. Alito had similar questions and decided on the same training for the same purposes. After deciding on a weekly time and location, we left Alito for AYINET’s Lira office.
Since then, I’ve already typed up three lesson plan outlines (that’s how many lessons I think the training will take) and the agenda and the handout for the first one. We’ve gathered all necessary materials and we’re ready to go. I’ve also prepared the project assessment. Unfortunately, I am behind schedule. AYINET has not been able to take me to the field for the trainings due to another large project taking place. That project is wrapping up now, which will allow me to get back to serious work. I reworked my workplan and things are looking tight, but good.
In the meantime, I’ve been preparing the final assessment of the main project I’m working on, the Northern Uganda Remembrance Program (NURP). I’ve also been editing information for the website that’s being put up. I’ve been helping with other office tasks, like making charts and graphs and entering data. I’ve gotten to do a little photography, but I think I’ll be used a lot more a little farther down the road. The reconstructive surgery project and the culture project are both starting soon. The surgery will be starting again next week and the culture project will start towards the end of July.
I’ve been learning a lot in the office, as well as my homestay. Everybody likes helping me learn the language here, Luo. At home, I’ve learned how to do some cooking, like how to cut cassava, but I still want to learn more. I’ve also learned a lot about the war, about Uganda, and about East Africa. I’m staying with a very large family. New people are constantly coming in and out of the house, so there’s always someone to talk to. There’s also always something to do. Cleaning, washing, and cooking never end! I’ve unfortunately also learned what it feels like to suffer from malaria. I got it Thursday night. Luckily, I was feeling much, much better by Friday at noon. I’m now feeling normal, except for a little tiredness.
I went to the field for a second time earlier last week to collect ideas for what multimedia tools the community partners are interested in having made. That’s the second part of the NURP that I’m working on. Everyone seems to think that posters with messages of peace and stickers for their individual projects will be the most useful. However, nobody came with ideas. I gave a few examples, like how stickers with peace signs and a short message can be put on bicycles, school notebooks, and walls. Posters with messages against jealousy and promoting hard work could be made for the “I Don’t Want Jealousy” Club and placed around town. There is still some confusion, but at the end of the first training I’ll clarify and show them some ideas I’ve drafted up for their feedback. Hopefully the partners will be ready with some ideas at that point so I can get to work.
I was supposed to have my first training on Friday, but when as we were driving to Barlonyo we noticed the incredible damage the rain had done the night before. As we got closer to the center of the village, it got worse. The crops were completely destroyed. When we arrived at the Barlonyo office, we learned that it had rained for three hours and hailed for one hour the night before. Most people’s crops were ruined, leaving the village with no food and no source of sufficient income for the season. We had to leave so that AYINET could alert the media and try to get disaster relief to the village. The Red Cross got to Barlonyo and the situation is cooling down, but it’s still a major problem for the community. The first training was rescheduled for this Saturday.
I’ll post about how it goes and how everything else is coming along!