Three Lessons on Life in Gulu

By Sarah Lovejoy

Usually, “we’ve come so far” is just a passing phrase, implying change or growth but not necessarily distance. In reflecting on my past few weeks, however, I discover much of both. I’ve flown 14,603 miles from the US to Uganda, driven from Kampala to Gulu, and traveled to the local districts of Alero, Amuru, and Lacor. Lots of distances. As for change and growth, where to begin?

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The Catechists Training Centre (aka The CTC)

Exactly three weeks ago, I was Sarah Lovejoy and I lived in Tacoma, Washington. Today, I am Amarokuc Sarah and it feels like home whenever a boda turns in to the BOSCO Uganda/Catechist Training Center driveway (where we live). I knew two words of Acholi when I arrived. Now, I can greet someone at any time of the day and count to 10. I had never taken a boda; now, I’ve done so riding sidesaddle while protecting two boxes of cupcakes. It is amazing to feel myself being shaped by my time here. Some ways are small, and some more significant. Three weeks into this journey, I think it’s fitting to share 3 lessons I’ve learned:

1. Life is too wonderful to take too seriously. For the first few days (ok fine, weeks) of work, I was always caught off guard when someone cracked a joke. I didn’t pick up on sarcasm or ridiculous instructions at all. I was in what I’ll call “US work mode.” I thought that “professionalism” necessarily meant serious. I wanted to do a good job and was thus focused on work alone during my work hours. I found myself frustrated when I felt like I wasn’t getting much work done. Now, I look back and laugh! I am getting more work done than last week, and also getting in many more laughs. I’ve bonded with coworkers and neighbors, and feel so much more at home for it. At the end of the day, it is relationships that make it worth it. This culture has opened my eyes to laughter; not as an add-on, but as a part of life itself. Everywhere, I find laughter and smiles: taking a walk, in the grocery store, at the market, on bodas. Of course, there are times when life is difficult and serious. The people of northern Uganda certainly know this well enough. But life here, more often than not, provides an opportunity for joy and friendship. Each day is another day we are lucky enough to live, and a smile not given is a smile wasted.

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Sharpening literacy skills with a few students during a downpour

2. Rain is a good thing. Even when it takes the power out. Reflecting back, some of the best times I’ve had here have been in the midst of a downpour. During my first week, while at Bardege Community ICT Center, the power shut off and people flocked to the Center for shelter from the torrential downpour. The room was cozy and still impressively quiet, and I spent a blissful 2 hours reading with two beautiful schoolchildren. In spite of our language barrier we read book after book, equally excited when we could share words in addition to our smiles. After the worst of it had let up, Lindsey and I walked back to the Catechist Training Center, also in the rain, with two boys who would become some of our closest friends. Normally we would have taken a boda, but our fear of slippery driving conditions allowed us to branch out and forge a new friendship. A week later, a rainy Friday night without power stopped us from going out in town, but inspired an evening spent swapping stories and playing cards by flashlight here at the Catechist Training Center. Once again, rain led to friendship! Another small lesson that life is meant to be enjoyed, and not taken too seriously!

3. Don’t go running at 4pm. Lindsey, Claire and I had been wanting to go running for awhile, so one day when we all finished work early, we decided to head out. We were eager to see the sights and get some fresh air. Little did we know, 4pm air is still incredibly hot; we were gasping as soon as we started. But we were in for a far greater surprise than the heat. Apparently, 4pm is the time school gets out. We unwittingly ran straight through a schoolyard just as the students were being released for the day. Already a daily spectacle, three muzungus in colorful shorts, running at one of the hottest times of day was just too much for the kids. Our ears rang. Not just with giggles or whispers, but full on I-haven’t-ever-seen-anything-that-funny belly laughs. Our run was made more difficult by our own uncontrollable laughter at the whole situation. A few brave souls decided to run a half mile with us in school shoes and uniforms, making the run even more memorable. Suffice it to say, we went later the next day and avoided the schoolyard altogether.

Sarah Lovejoy is originally from Tacoma, Washington and currently studies in the Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She is excited to be interning with BOSCO-Uganda during the 2013 summer and will be providing regular updates from Gulu, Uganda over the next two months.

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Alero Training Week Pairs Knowledge with Smiles

-By Sarah Lovejoy

This week’s Alero-based Training of Trainers (TOT) is off to a wonderful start. Opening with responses to the question, “What is a computer,” including one man’s first time ever touching or even seeing a computer, the session wrapped up with photo editing.

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Community members attend an ICT training in Alero, Uganda

The BOSCO team expects continued success throughout the week-long training, which is held at Alero’s Community ICT center. Usually a youth center, the main room of the building was transformed to a modern classroom with a projector and temporary blackboards. BOSCO brought an additional solar panel to power the 10 training computers. Though the sun was weak due to on and off rain showers, the computers were up to the challenge and suffered no problems. The training featured people of various backgrounds: site managers from Lira and Alero, a university student and a catechist, among others. Eager attendees articulated their expectations and fears, set ground rules, and learned the basic distinctions between hardware and software, keyboard and function key basics, and how to take, store, and edit photos. All in an Alero day’s work.

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Future trainer’s first glance of a computer caught on camera, “I’ve never seen a computer before in my life.”

 In articulating BOSCO Uganda’s expectations of the trainers, BOSCO staff member Robert Komakech laid out three key components: Commitment, Management Capacity of the Site, and Sustainability. In summary, trainers are responsible for the successful up-keep of their sites. They should use the knowledge gained at the training session to foster a sustainable community center that is safe and open for all. BOSCO provides the key equipment and guidance. Yet, Komakech reminds us, “This is not for BOSCO. It is the Alero ICT Center, not the BOSCO ICT center. We just help implement.”

BOSCO phases out after a one-year period, at which point the community center belongs entirely to the community it serves. If the sense of the community pervading the training session is any indication, the centers its trainers return to will be booming successes. At the end of the day I was struck by how joyful it had been. The level of laughter matched that of the learning, which is saying something because it was obvious that a great deal had been taught and received. Blending technology, development, and community, the day was a perfect example of all that BOSCO stands for.

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Having fun with the photography lesson

Sarah Lovejoy is originally from Tacoma, Washington and currently studies in the Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She is excited to be interning with BOSCO-Uganda during the 2013 summer and will be providing regular updates from Gulu, Uganda over the next two months.

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Seeking Partner Community Groups : New ICT installations – Dateline Tuesday, 14th May 2013

Dear all,
In reference to the attached circular Letter – Identification of Community Sites for ICT Installations, this serves to invite submission
of lists of Community Youth Groups also indicating the group‘s focal
point person(s), contact (working numbers and emails etc), Sub County
and District. The groups that are expected to be existing and
functional shall be assessed using the Site Assessment tool developed
by BOSCO-Uganda and if the Site meets the required criterior it shall
be considered one of the ICT community Partners newly establised under
the Programme Intervention “ Peace Building and Socio-economic
Development using Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in the
Acholi sub-region, Northern Uganda” (Phase 1 & Phase 2).

Please feel free to make submissions of lists to the Field Coordinators
1) Robert Komakech, Field Coordinator (in-charge of the Districts of
Nwoya, Amuru, Lamwo, Kitgum)
Email: “Robert Komakech” rkomakech@boscouganda.com ;
Mob Phone: +256 (0)775 141532; +256 (0)794 141532

2) Daniel Komakech, Field Coordinator (in-charge of the Districts of
Agago, Pader, Gulu, Lira, Oyam)
Email: “Daniel Komakech” dkomakech@boscouganda.com ;
Mob Phone: +256 (0)775 345803

We appreciate lists submitted by Tuesday, 14th May 2013. Thank you in
advance for your quick response to this call.

Sincerely,

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Thursday, 18th April Job Advert by BOSCO-Uganda

BOSCO-Uganda Job advert-Announcements

BOSCO-Uganda is seeking to recruit 3 (Three) suitably qualified personnel for the positions of Project Assistant (Technical), Project Assistant (Training) and Accounts Assistant to contribute to the implementation of specific components of the Programme Intervention.

Interested candidates may send their handwritten applications along with a copy of CV, names and contact details of 3 referees; and Reference letters from former employers by or before Thursday, 25th April 2013 , 5:00pm to BOSCO-Uganda Head Office located on Pope John Paul II Road off Juba Road at the For-God junction next to Caritas-Gulu Main Building or email: jobs@boscouganda.com.

Successful applicants will be invited to an interview on Tuesday, 30th April 2013 at the BOSCO-Uganda Head Office.

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