Uganda: Forgiveness and Change Starts At Home

Participants take part in an ESPERE team-building project developed by our associates in Uganda.

Working towards the peaceful evolution of their country, two Uganda-based organizations, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) and the Interreligious Council of Uganda (IRCU) worked closely to conduct two workshops using the ESPERE Methodology in January and early February 2015 in the District of Gulu. The facilitators for the workshops had the benefit of being trained at the June 2014 workshop in Uganda led and organized by our Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa. Each successful attendee will carry forward the accomplishments and lessons learned from their participation to benefit their communities at large.

The workshops were developed to cater to the specific needs of the local program participants. The first workshop held Jan. 21–28, 2015 focused on those who were victims or survivors of the May 2004 Lukodi Massacre wherein the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) raided and carried out an attack that led to the deaths of over 60 individuals in the town of Lukodi in Gulu District. The workshop itself was held at Lukodi Primary School and many of the participants were members of the Lukodi Reconciliation Team, a group made up of victims and survivors of the Massacre. Facilitator and participants alike exhibited strong enthusiasm for the program and despite literacy challenges, the group completed all eleven modules.

Denis Okello directs participants at the Uganda ESPERE training sessions.

The second workshop was conducted from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, 2015 at Laroo Boarding Primary School in Laroo Division; Gulu Municipality. Participants consisted of 15 teachers from five Primary Schools all of which offer educational services to those in need including, formerly abducted persons, child mothers, street children and those with special needs. Program participants from this workshop as well were successful in completing all eleven modules.

The Modules of ESPERE – An Overview and How They Were Used

The ESPERE methodology uses a standard procedure in its approach to the process of forgiveness, refined slightly for each unique participant set. Similar to the June 2014 workshop, eleven modules shaped the program. Listening exercises at the onset of the workshop helped each participant understand the importance of being an active listener and an active participator.

The first module paired individuals together to form a safe space wherein each person spoke about the experience that had hurt or traumatized them. In the second module, participants learned through role playing how aggression affects emotions, thoughts, and behavior and determines the consequences of pain on physical and emotional health. Program participants found themselves identifying with the fictional role they were playing; prompting many to further share stories of instances where rage worked as a blindfold preventing them from seeing clearly. Program participants made a commitment to help others come out of the darkness created by rage.

In the third module, participants were led through a process of choice; participants had the choice of selecting unknown wrapped items, each item symbolizing an alternative leading to forgiveness. Ultimately, each participant actively chose to forgive and made a commitment of hope. After choosing to forgive, the fourth module focused on perspective, emphasizing that no two people will interpret a situation in the same way and many times someone will commit offenses for reasons that they deem as justified. Understanding these reasons helps provide a new perspective of the offender, resulting in a possible step towards common ground.

This led directly into module five which prompted participants to make a list of both positive and negative aspects of their offenders and imagine a meeting with that offender. Module six had participants in a very literal sense of the phrase, wash away the pain. The symbolic gesture, after speaking about their offenses, choosing forgiveness, and attempting to understand their offender brought relief to some and a step in the right direction for many program participants. The next four modules took program participants through the identification of valued principles, caring for and protecting principles, and most importantly, rebuilding and restoring broken principles. Participants were given ideas to repair broken principles, including conversation initiators, apologies, or a symbolic act as reparation - ultimately to reestablish a relationship. Finally, the last module provided practical understanding that although painful memories may never be completely forgotten, reworking them helps participants enter into the state of communion with freedom, solidarity and peace.

Most inspiring, despite their traumatizing past, the human spirit moved the Gulu participants in the workshop with the end goal of connecting with their brethren and looking towards a better future; proving once again that forgiveness and reconciliation rises above hate, and furthers the advancement of humanity.

To view the full report and see more photos from the ESPERE-Uganda Project, see this link. To find out how to take a more active role and support our work building grassroots partnerships like the ones we've established in Africa and Colombia, please visit here

[slide] [img path="images/10967360_796381027082475_2015717359_o.jpg"] Gulu Workshops - Photo credit: Denis Okello and our team in Uganda. [/img] [img path="images/10969438_796378030416108_1287229658_o.jpg"] Gulu Workshops - Photo credit: Denis Okello and our team in Uganda. [/img] [img path="images/10967610_796379823749262_1998732302_o.jpg"] Gulu Workshops - Photo credit: Denis Okello and our team in Uganda. [/img] [img path="images/10964665_796381547082423_1222004002_o.jpg"] Gulu Workshops - Photo credit: Denis Okello and our team in Uganda. [/img] [img path="images/10965657_796383453748899_711227497_n.jpg"] Gulu Workshops - Photo credit: Denis Okello and our team in Uganda. [/img][/slide]


Goldin Institute Successfully Returns to Uganda

This June, Institute co-founders Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman returned to Uganda to participate in our first ever cross-continental Child Soldier Reintegration and Reconciliation Training Workshops. Because of her work in developing and using the ESPERE methodology in her native Colombia, our Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa was the natural candidate to lead the training in Uganda.

Before bringing this project to Africa, Lissette worked closely with our partner and her advisor, Fr. Leonel Narvaez designing and successfully testing the ESPERE methodology to engage local communities by using schools as centers for reconciliation for former child soldiers in the region. We highlighted their work and what this looks like on-the-ground in Colombia in previous reports.

To best adapt the training to our colleagues in Africa, an intensive eight-day workshop was conducted wherein participants learned about the key concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation, and obtained tools to carry these ideas forward within their communities.

In all, Lissette successfully trained 16 individuals made up of child combatants, teachers, crisis counselors and community members. These participants represented five different regions of Northern Africa and because each certified trainer committed to individual action plans upon completion, the outreach within their communities will impact many more potential trainees. In short, Lissette has left a "teaching tree" model in place that we hope to see expand and carry forth the ESPERE program within the region.


[quote]My expectations were different than the reality in Africa, normally the mass media shows to the world the bad things about Africa, I was expecting some kind of hungry people, in a dusty or dirty environment, waiting for water and food. But, I realized (once there and on the ground) that they have needs, but also they have so many good things that the mass media doesn't talk about: they are a happy and generous people, (there are) amazing buildings for education, they are bilinguals and have spoken their own language and English since they were kids, they have some kind of sense of community that we have lost in our developed societies, and is highly necessary for healing our societies – they are ahead of the game in that sense. I realized we have as many things to learn from them as they can learn from us. I'm not saying everything is perfect, I'm just saying that not everything is bad, and there is great hope for the future because of the people. Moreover, I was expecting a very rough place but it was a beautiful place for the workshop."[/quote]

- Global Associate and program facilitator, Lissette Mateus Roa


Lissette's excerpted comments above are from a conversation with her upon her return from Africa. The full interview can be found here.

In coming months, we look forward to sharing the results of the action plans established by the trainees at Lissette's ESPERE workshop, as they carry out the mission to bring societal changes to their own communities in Northern Africa. If you would like to become more involved supporting this project, find out how you can help.

[slide] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_1.jpg"]Co-founder's Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman meet with Everest Okwonga, the Principal at St. Janani Luwum Vocational Training Centre[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_2.jpg"]Co-founder's Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman meet with students at a trade school for former child combatants in Gulu[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_3.jpg"]Co-founder Diane Goldin meets with students in a Gulu classroom during the Institute's June2014 trip to the region to take part on child soldier reintegration efforts[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_4.jpg"]Participants of a workshop conducted by Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa take part in one of the exercises teaching 'forgiveness'[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_5.jpg"] Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa (bottom left) and her group of ESPERE students. Also included is friend and colleague and Associate emeritus Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat (standing 5th from right)[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_6.jpg"]Participants of the ESPERE workshop during a training session[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_7.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa (standing) leads a training session in Gulu[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_9.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus conducts an exercise with participants of the ESPERE workshop in June 2014[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_15.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus (sitting foreground) leads her ESPERE training group[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_28.jpg"]Co-founder Diane Goldin meets with students at the St Janani Vocational School. The School is made up of mostly former child soldiers learning new skills (like carpentry in this classroom) to rejoin civilian life.[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_27.jpg"]The workshop attended by former child combatants[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_34.jpg"]Institute co-founder Diane Goldin meets with Ajok Dorah - a psychologist specializing in giving counsel to former child combatants returning to their communities.[/img][/slide]