Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peace Camp

For one week 80 youth from 4 different tribes of Northern Uganda joined us for our first ever Peace Camp. The youth were both boys and girls ranging from 15-19 and had all been heavily affected by the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army. Some of the kids had been abducted and forced to fight with the rebels, others spent their childhoods in IDP camps, many saw their parents, siblings, and friends murdered and some were even forced to assist with the killings, many of the girls had been raped and some had children. All grew up in harsh conditions where it was unclear whether or not they’d survive until the next day.

Peace Camp was designed to allow the youth to address some of the lingering issues and trauma resulting from their experiences during the war. The hope was that they would be able to release some of the burdens they had been carrying and start the process of bringing peace to themselves, their families, and their communities. The main topics addressed during camp were forgiveness, reconciliation, positive communication, trust, peaceful living, and looking towards the future.

I was lucky enough to have been selected to be a counselor for the camp which meant that my Ugandan co-counselor and I was responsible for bringing 10 campers through the days activities and helping them process all of the new information they were getting as well as their feelings.

They training was extremely dynamic with interactive lessons prepared by PCVs, experts brought in to address certain topics, a man who had also been abducted who now runs an extremely successful company, an opportunity to showcase their traditional tribal dances to the kids from other regions, and even a trip to a phenomenal ropes course to put lessons on teamwork, communication, and self-esteem into action.

It’s difficult for me to write about Peace Camp because it was such an amazing experience both for me and my campers. It feels too big to put into words. What I can tell you is that I saw kids who’s lives had been dark smile, laugh, and play. I saw kids mourn the loss of parents who one day just disappeared. I saw friendships made between children of different tribes that had historically blamed one another for the violence. I saw kids whose bright futures had been stolen from them see that the world can still hold opportunities for them if they are willing to take control of their lives again. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this experience.

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