20/4/15 – 25/4/15
I feel like I dedicated the past two weeks of my life towards very sustainable trainings and sessions. From April 20th – 25th I brought a group of two Luteete PTC students and my village neighbor Godfrey to the Central Youth Technical Training in Mukono. During the past 5 months Peace Corps staff and an extended Peace Corps Volunteer designed regional youth technical trainings that refined the Peace Corps camp model. The goal was to present and facilitate soft leadership skills and sustainable agricultural practices, IGA’s (income generating activities), and creative facilitation skills to a team consisting of a Peace Corps Volunteer, Ugandan counterpart, and two Ugandan youth. This would ensure a transfer of skills and further provision of resources by the Peace Corps Volunteer.
I was absolutely enthralled by this training, because the focus was on fostering youth-adult partnerships. There were sessions about creative facilitation, HIV/AIDS myths and condom (male and female) demonstrations, gender empowerment, compost and permagarden creation, and youth-led clubs. Every session presented the topics with an emphasis on gender and youth empowerment. The Centre for Creativity and Capacity Development, consisting of Ugandan artists, dancers, singers, and actors, facilitated the majority of the sessions. A special emphasis was placed on having females and other youth leading the sessions as opposed to traditional male Ugandan facilitators.
I think that I was in a stage of my service where I had this close relationship with my Ugandan team members and knew specific ways and methods that could be employed in my community. I met a Ugandan facilitators dedicated to motivating youth through hip-hop dancing, offering free HIV testing in rural communities, and demonstrating the successes of youth-led clubs. However, the session that excited me the most was the permagarden tutorial led by a Peace Corps Ethiopia agriculture specialist, Peter Jensen. A permagarden utilizes many of the concepts of permaculture design, by manipulating a pre-existing landscape with sustainable, easy-to-access, and readily available resources in agriculturally-based societies. Once created, a permagarden would allow a family to plant various fruits, vegetables, and perennials throughout the year regardless of dry season or rainy season.
Water is stored underground during rainy season underneath the subsoil and deeper layers of clay. After double-digging and loosening the soil down to a depth of 50cm, the water from the rainy season will rise through the dry upper layers of subsoil and topsoil through capillary action. By adding charcoal powder, dry cow manure, and wood ash the loosened layers of soil in the plant beds will hold more air, water, and minerals essential for plant growth and deep roots. My team members were ecstatic about this new concept and decided that they wanted to create a permagarden near the ICT lab near the PTC. I too got excited about introducing various vegetables and greens to my community in a easily-created way.
Furthermore, these trainings allowed the youth to voice their own ideas and feel as if anything they said carried the same magnitude as any other adult or Peace Corps Volunteer regardless of age or gender. I could summarize my time in Mukono as being very inspiring. I was surrounded by devoted Peace Corps Volunteers and even more devoted Ugandans. Similar to other Peace Corps camps, the Centre for Creativity and Capacity Development taught leadership and creativity sessions through art, skits, dancing, singing, and movement. The idea revolved around kinesthetic teaching methods as opposed to powerpoint presentations and blackboards.
Towards the end of the training, there were two sessions that really captured the essence of training. The first one was late-night art where all the participants of the training gathered around the edges of a long table draped with white cloth and all kinds of drawing and painting materials. The idea was to dance around the table and draw certain images at certain intervals. It started out at face-value by drawing our favorite foods on the cloth, and progressed to drawing images that reminded us of youth-adult partnerships. At one point, we were instructed to draw an image of our personal dream for someone in this room. After we were done, my Ugandan student pulled me arm and showed me her drawing of a school building. She told me that her dream was for me to teach students like her at my very own school. Another youth pulled me aside and showed me an image of a camera and said that her dream was for me to take the best photo in the entire world.
Sometimes I forget that as much as Peace Corps volunteers here dream about helping Uganda, Ugandans also have dreams for us. Peter led the second session where we each held a piece of paper and slowly crumpled it every time something he said applied to us. For example, if he said, “I have been a victim of crime”, “I have a leaky roof”, “I have HIV”, or “I have been persecuted for my beliefs” then I would crumple my paper each time a statement was true in my life. Afterwards, we exchanged papers with someone else and straightened the paper out. Step-by-step he instructed us how to build a paper airplane, and explained that even though we could never truly get rid of the crumples in our life, we could still change. After everyone successfully created a paper airplane, he instructed us to lift it into the air and in the stillness of that moment he uttered, “No matter how damaged you were; now you can fly.” Immediately after he said that, over 60 paper airplanes, goals, and visions were soaring through the air of the main hall.