Monday, April 21, 2014

Why we're living below the line...

Helen and I are going to be Living Below The Line. Live Below the Line is a global campaign and five day challenge that encourages people to live on the equivalent poverty line ($2.25NZ) for their food and drink for five days. We're going to be doing the American version of LBL this year on $1.50US for Tutapona from April 28-May 2.
I for one am not looking forward to it! Why would someone choose to do such a thing? The idea I guess is to get people to experience one of the challenges faced by the world’s poorest if only for a short while. We still live in nice houses and drive cars and carry on with all the usual comforts of life, except for food.
As well as creating understanding and empathy the campaign is designed to raise funds for important work. We would love it if YOU could help by sponsoring us to live below the line. All the money raised will go to our trauma rehabilitation programme with some of the world’s poorest people. We believe the programme gives people hope and a chance to move forward with their lives after coming through some pretty difficult stuff- in short it helps them get above the line.
Tutapona wants to raise $15,000!
My target is $500 and Helen's is $250.
Can you help us get there?
You can support me here and her here.
Thanks in advance for your generosity!


We made it onto the news!

The amazing work that Tutapona does here in Uganda finally got some serious air time today when it appeared on ABC in America. Got 2:17 seconds to hear about the trauma counselling we're doing here in Uganda? Check out our founders, Carl and Julie Gaede talking to the team at 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Portraits of Reconciliation

Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers. In another, a woman poses with a casually reclining man who looted her property and whose father helped murder her husband and children. In many of these photos, there is little evident warmth between the pairs, and yet there they are, together. In each, the perpetrator is a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.

Jean Pierre Karenzi
Perpetrator (left)Viviane NyiramanaSurvivor
KARENZI: “My conscience was not quiet, and when I would see her I was very ashamed. After being trained about unity and reconciliation, I went to her house and asked for forgiveness. Then I shook her hand. So far, we are on good terms.”
NYIRAMANA: “He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him — now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.”

Godefroid MudaheranwaPerpetrator (left)Evasta MukanyandwiSurvivor
MUDAHERANWA: “I burned her house. I attacked her in order to kill her and her children, but God protected them, and they escaped. When I was released from jail, if I saw her, I would run and hide. Then AMI started to provide us with trainings. I decided to ask her for forgiveness. To have good relationships with the person to whom you did evil deeds — we thank God.”
MUKANYANDWI: “I used to hate him. When he came to my house and knelt down before me and asked for forgiveness, I was moved by his sincerity. Now, if I cry for help, he comes to rescue me. When I face any issue, I call him.”

Read more here:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A day at the office

Last week I travelled north from Kampala to a small, remote settlement near the border between South Sudan and Uganda. It was my fourth visit and each time I go I’m impacted anew. Adjumani is a tiny community that has been inundated with South Sudanese refugees since war started in their home country on December 16th 2013. 
The vast majority of those crossing Uganda’s northern border (87%) are women and children. They have fled from horrific inter-tribal and political violence. The killing has not been restricted to soldiers shooting soldiers. Civilians are often targeted.In late January a ceasefire was signed between the two warring parties but this has not translated into peace on the ground. The fighting has continued and, in places, escalated in intensity. About 400 new South Sudanese asylum seekers are still arriving in Uganda daily.
Hearing these people speak of what they’ve been through has highlighted the gulf between the life experiences of those in the world’s poorest places from my own. When small challenges arise I’m easily unsettled and disturbed. These people have been through things that I simply cannot relate to. Below is an example of how war traumatises individuals and wrecks societies. Jacob* is a 22 year old man who showed very clear signs of psychological trauma. He agreed to tell me how the war affected him.

"I come from South Sudan. Last year I was studying in my first year of high school and helping my family to farm cattle. My mother, sisters and I were supported by my older brother as my father died just before I was born in 1991. In December of last year I was out working in the fields when the rebel soldiers attacked my home village. My mother and sisters ran with many others but lots of people were killed too. I arrived home from the fields and the village was deserted. I found my older brother and my uncle among the dead. My blind grandmother had also been shot in the head. I stayed there for 2 days with my dead relatives as I didn’t know where to go. The government soldiers and Ugandan troops pushed the rebels out of my area and another uncle was able to make it back to my village where he found me. We left together and walked for 3 ½ days to seek refuge. We passed through more fighting and in a small fishing village we were caught up in it.  As we were running out of the area someone in front of me was shot and they were so close that their blood hit me. After making it to Juba we caught a ride to the border with Uganda. I have been here in Uganda with my uncle since the 3rd of January. My mother and sisters are still in South Sudan. I’ve spoken to them once but we cannot reach each other while the fighting carries on. The hardest thing for me has been the loss of my brother. I think about what I saw in the village often. I’m also worried about the future, I am not going to school and I don’t know what will happen to me. I’ve even thought about taking my life." 
*Name changed
His story is a representation of just one situation created by this war. Today there are 52,000 others registered in Adjumani. Obviously not all have been through as much as Jacob but many have lost loved ones in the fighting (about 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed); all are aliens and have little control over their future. Some of the symptoms of this kind of psychological trauma are insomnia, nightmares, depression and increased suicidality.

For Jacob and others like him, Tutapona’s program is a lifeline. The trauma rehabilitation work and counselling we are doing will help him process the things he’s seen and to move forward with his life. Today, Jacob is in the program and I'm keeping up to date with his progress. The need is massive and urgent. We have two full time staff there (and other staff working with the victims of different conflicts) but would love to employ more.
A lot of people have asked us how they can help out with this work. Tutapona is registered for LiveBelow The Line this year. To understand one aspect of what it’s like to be a refugee I challenge you to try living on $1.50 for your food for 5 days. Get your friends and family to sponsor you. I can assure you your support will be well used and you'll probably drop a belt size into the bargain.
We’re registered in the States but people living anywhere can sign up with us here

 Live Below the Line so people like Jacob can rise above it. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Couldn't have said it better...

Meet Mary.

“My name is Mary and I’m 50 years old. When I was 14 I got married and by 15 I’d produced my son. In my lifetime I’ve given birth to 12 children. There are now two left. One of my sons was abducted at the age of 12 to be a childsoldier. He was in captivity for 12 years. When I was told he had come back I felt so happy. He had married two women while he was in the bush and I had two grandchildren. He went on to become a lieutenant for the Ugandan military. About four years after his return I was told that he had taken his own life. I lost consciousness that day I was so shocked. Today I am a widow taking care of one of my grandchildren. I’ve often felt suicidal as there is no-one to talk to. The Tutapona trauma rehabilitation program I went through taught me that I shouldn't dwell on past experiences. As soon as I would hit my bed at night the tears would begin to fall. I’ve since been able to sleep without a tear. I no longer look at myself as someone with the most problems – the group counselling program showed me I am not the only one. I had just never heard theirs before. I was someone that was living in bitterness but this program has lightened my heart.”