Thursday, 28 May 2009

Building Peace and Resilience in Uganda

The United Nations has called the situation in northern Uganda the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world. The 20-year civil war between government forces and a rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army has victimized tens of thousands of youth, destroyed families and fractured communities. The recent decrease in armed conflict has left the region with a difficult question: how do you teach peace to a generation who has known nothing but war? The future of this region is in its youth! Many young people have been traumatized as victims and as perpetrators of violence. They have grown up knowing fear, now they need to learn to adapt to a less frightening world and to help each other heal.  Last year, the Dalhousie International Health Office (IHO) and Section of International Psychiatry: Youth Coalition for Peace participated in a joint project with the Canadian Physicians for Aid Relief (CPAR) and Gulu University. Their goal was to work with affected youth, communities and non-governmental organizations to help build a climate supporting sustainable peace in Northern Uganda. Using a youth peer counselling model, our team developed a training program to integrate mental health into local peace-building efforts and establish community activities to address these issues in a non-stigmatizing manner. Given the important role that sport plays in Ugandan communities, soccer was identified as tool to engage youth and teach peace-building skills such as teamwork and conflict resolution. My Daughter, Leah Kutcher - captain of the 2006 Dalhousie women’s soccer team - worked with Katie Orr at the Dalhousie International Health Office and coach Graham Chandler to send extra uniforms, equipment and soccer balls to Ugandan teams who lacked the materials needed to play. The Halifax City Soccer Club also contributed uniforms and equipment.  A program update from CPAR earlier this year reported that the uniforms and equipment were successfully distributed to youth teams in Laiby and Bungaterra. The update also reported the establishment of many community-organized sports, music and drama programs and Peace Clubs, allowing Ugandan youth to finally start building a better, more peaceful future. Since then Stan Football Club (Stan FC) is thriving! Their latest blog entry is evidence of their success:

Stan football club players were honored by youth coalition for peace (YCFP), a community-based organization working (CBO) in northern Uganda to participate in a five-day children soccer camp for peace. Players are learning lots of new skills and rules for fair play that can foster harmony and sustainable youth participation in sport for development. The camp is being facilitated by professional coaches from Canada.

They have some great photos posted on their site too! ~ Dr. Stan Kutcher

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