All posts in Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange

Postcard Images from Uganda

Posted by / October 12, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment

these are just a few of the peace cards create in Uganda.  More than 30 schools from around the country were involved in the 2010 Peace Exchange. While in Uganda I worked with more than 3,000 students.  Here is just a small taste of what the students created.  these are some of my favorites.

Saturday Art Camp at In Movement

Posted by / April 19, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments

Nakirebe Primary School , Mpigi – April 8th

Posted by / April 19, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments













Tuesday March 23rd ~ Akor Primary School – Peace Pals with 148 Students

Posted by / March 29, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment
Tuesday 10am Bacali drives me to meet Bernard and his colleague Walter. Thankfully today we only have to drive for about 40 minutes, not 90. That, and a night of rest, had me feeling excited and groovy in anticipation of today’s Peace Pals workshop.

When we arrived at the school, we walked to meet the Head Teacher and as we got close to the building, there was a single whistle. Students all over the yard stopped and kneeled down. It was instantaneous and absolute. Every student in the yard, about 4 or 500 stopped in their tracks and kneeled down. I stopped in awe and watched. There was total respect and poised control by each student waiting for the next signal. And then, after about 3 seconds, two quick sounds of the whistle, and everyone went running for class.

I was filled with a joyful amazement. From a quiet and calmed stillness to a chaotic frenzy in split seconds…. I knew this was going to be a fun day.

*

The Head Teacher greeted us with open arms, asked us how many students we wanted to work with and quickly directed us to the tree at the corner of the building to set up. We had initially discussed working with 100 students, and then found out that there we going to be more like 120. I smiled and agreed such a number would be fine.



Once we had gathered and began, it felt to me like there was a lot more than 120 students sitting before me. We did a nice long meditation while seated and talked at length about what it means to create peace in our lives.

And then I asked the group to stand and create a large circle. It became even clearer when we stood up to form a circle, having made circles with 80 – 100 several times, that there were more, but would have to wait until we were finished to get an accurate count.

This circle was one of the most powerful experiences of all the Peace Pals workshops I have led. The group was large and the energy was high. The students were warm and playful, fun and engaged. As I showed them postcards from the U.S. students I asked them to consider the different slogans: “Walk Peace” “Talk Peace” “Think Peace” and “unity”.

There were a couple of things that happened during this workshop that stood out.

The first was something I had experienced before, but hadn’t put my finger so precisely on, was the fact that these students very rarely make eye contact with an elder. There is a submissive, subordinate behavior that represents their way of showing respect. As we talked, one student spoke of “greeting another” as a way of showing peace. And so naturally, I stuck out my hand for a shake. He responded and we held a grip for a moment. I was waiting for him to look me in the eyes and he wouldn’t. So, like many Ugandans do, I continued to hold the shake. He tried to pull away, and I held lightly, until finally, his discomfort was clear and I let go.

But what I felt and what I found was my ticket into talking about the power of eye contact and what it really means to “see” another person.

By looking someone in the eye, you acknowledge them. You see them. You share that moment of soul connection. Hearts open with eyes exposing the vulnerability of that deep inner you. You allow someone to see “in” and in doing so, show them that you too are a human being, full of love. This is a powerful practice and it proceeded to walk around the circle making eye contact with as many of the students as I could.

I expanded on the topic by sharing these thoughts: In war and in violence, there is only blindness. There is no sight. There is no love. There is a visionlessness of destruction and despair where fear blocks sight and anger enables one to act in an in-humane way.

So the only way, is to SEE each other and acknowledge that ability to open our eyes to look and be, simply be with and therefore accept each other for exactly who we are, as we see another before our eyes, without story, judgment, or evaluation. This is a powerful act of peace.


To see more pictures:http://picasaweb.google.com/createpeaceproject/AkorPeacePalsLira?feat=directlink

Ogeno Peace Pals – Lira

Posted by / March 29, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments

Monday March 22nd.
We woke at 6am for a 7am pick-up in preparation for a long drive north to Lira, 5 hrs north of Kampala. Along the way we picked up Lynn’s colleague Penelope and her 8 yr young son, Sam.
I think we made good time along the way and arrived in Loro, about 30 minutes outside Lira to drop the two Hewlett Foundation Employees at the Teachers College there. Sam and I continued to Lira with Bacali, our driver, another 30 mintues up the road to meet Bernard and Tony of Art for Children – Uganda, the NGO I was going to be partnering with this week.
Art for Children – Uganda is under the umbrella of War Child Holland, and uses art and creativity to support the healing and education of young people in this war torn Northern region of this country.
After picking these two men up, we drove for another difficult 90 minutes further North into the bush on rough dirt roads. Being tired, hungry and uncomfortable made it a challenge for me to maintain my composure and not get upset, considering the further we went, the further Bacali was going to have to drive back to pick up Lynn and Penelope, who were equally exhausted and expecting their driver to be there when they finished. Needless to say, I had to surrender to the road and the journey we were on to Ogeno Primary School.





March 18th Peace Pals at St. Henry’s Primary School, Muyenga

Posted by / March 19, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment
This morning I woke up nervous. My heart was beating fast and I felt a little shaky; uneasy in anticipation of my upcoming workshops. Perhaps it was because I had hired my friend AK to come a film the experience. Perhaps because I was scheduled to do two workshops in one day with 100 students per session. Perhaps I was just feeling shy, unprepared, and empty bellied hungry.

It was not a foreign feeling. Definitely a place of familiarity, not necessarily of comfort, but more of a feeling of nervous excitement and my mode of doing double-check mental preparations being expressed in the body as a hollow, scared emptiness.

Perhaps I will always experience this feeling, on some level, whenever I am preparing to step into the unknown, open my heart and share myself and this Peace Pals, or any project I started, for that matter, with a new group of participants.

*

Once in the car and in motion, I was almost immediately out of my own way and in route to pick up AK, get some minutes for my phone, and off to the school, ahead of schedule and on-time. We were on our way to St. Henry’s Primary school, the second private Catholic school of the week, and also the second school introduced to me by my new friend Laura Frederick of Global EChange. www.globalechange.com

We arrived at the school, met the Head Master, a nice man named Peter Okoth, who graciously received us and showed us around. We settled into a room in a building under construction at the top of their property to set up for doing workshops with the P4, P5, P6 and P7 classes.

These students were brilliant. Our plans to have two groups of 100 (P4 & P5’s and P6 &P7’s) was a bit ambitious given the size of the room, so we opted to work with one class at about 50 per session.

We started with the P5 kids who were very well behaved and dropped in quickly. They were warm and attentive, quiet, calm, and courteous. Their receptivity to the project was great and we moved easily along into a discussion about what “peace” meant to them

Here are some of their replies.

A sharp young boy of 12 said: “Peace is being humble.”
A lovely young girl of 10 said: “Peace is a warm light in your heart.”
Another smart young girl shared that: “Peace is sharing food or something to drink with someone who has nothing.:
And a quiet boy in his teens, said: “Peace is having love in your heart.”

I was already moved and we hadn’t yet begun to make art.

When I showed the group the postcards from the students in the U.S. I talked with them about the various slogans: think peace, walk peace, and talk peace. At one point I asked the group, what does it mean to walk peace?

One boy raised his hand and said, “to walk with love in your heart.” I was “wow’d” I asked him if he would demonstrate that. He agreed. I smiled. Shuffling from his bench, he began to walk down the center of the room, head held high, moving slowly, deliberately down the middle space in the room. Some of the others began to laugh and I quickly asked them to be quite and observe. I asked the young boy, perhaps 12 years old, to close his eyes and really demonstrate what i meant to “walk with love in his heart” and he did. This boy was amazing. He closed his eyes and with a slight smile, walked slowly down the center of the room. I was moved. Chills running throughout my body. As he approached me I invited him to turn around and continue back towards his desk table. He was a remarkable example for the room and there was a quiet and calmness in everyone as they observed.

Then I showed them the Om card. And I explained to them that this was the sound of peace. We practiced together. I find that when you get a room of 50 or 100 Ugandan students to Om together, it’s quite a powerful and beautiful thing.

And so we did just that. I had them close their eyes again. I demonstrated the sound of Om, and then we practiced a bit of call and response, before collectively Om’ing together three times. This was super fun and they found it both amusing and enjoyable.



And then the second group came in and we got right into it. We breathed together in silence. Eyes closed and introspective for about 5 minutes. (I try to extend this experience as long as I feel the energy in the room calming, watching for eyes opening or signs of restlessness, and really allowing the students to drop in.)

I tell them things like this. Eyes closed. Going inside. You are safe. Everyone here is friends. There is nothing to worry about. Feel at peace. Feel your heart. (some students put their hands on their chest) Relax. Notice your breath. Breathe easy. Relax your body. Be calm. This is the practice of being peaceful. All the while chiming my Tibetan hand cymbals three times.

And then we open our eyes and carry that energy into the writing and art making for peace. As I instruct them to consider what peace looks like and feels like, sharing their thoughts and feelings with that anonymous person in India a little something personal about themselves and their lives on the postcard.





Peace Pals at St. Kizito Primary School

Posted by / March 16, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments






On Tuesday I was in a local private school here in Kampala. A short walk from In Movement in Kansanga. The school, St. Kizito, is a catholic primary school serving approximately 350 kids.

The students were very well behaved, very friendly, and pleasantly communicative….something I rarely find. Often, there is a pervading shyness….and a real hesitation to talk with the strange teacher in the room…..but today was a bit different and the students were much more forward and talkative with me, which I appreciate.

For a little more than 2 hrs, I facilitated a Peace Pals wrokshop with about 100 P4, P5, and P6 students in an age range of 8 – 16 year olds. The kids were great. They were attentive and eager to share, more so than I had experienced in previous schools.

In each workshop I lead, I ask the students what peace means to them. In this workshop, I got many familiar answers such as “peace is love” and “peace is freedom” But there were a few spoken with confidence and embodied understanding that felt solid and different from other students. A young girl raised her hand and replied “Peace is loving your family.” Another young boy stood up and said “peace is being kind and friendly to everyone.”


The hilarious part of this day was my Vado HD video camera was out of battery and my camera ran out of battery in the first half hour. So I pulled out my mac and opened photo booth and the kids got a total kick out of seeing themselves on the screen and having their photos captured right before their eyes.

Luwunga Church of God Orphanage and Primary School

Posted by / March 12, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment

Wednesday March 10th. I took a 90 minute ride out of Kampala to the village.
I went to a place called Kakili to visit the orphanage and primary school run by a guy named Joshua who I met on the stairs of the Imperial Royale hotel in downtown Kampala.

He asked me if I was a volunteer ( a category of white person in Uganda there on service) I told him about my project and that I might be able to come. He called me a lot….a lot a lot to get me to come to his school. I had no idea where I was going, but I should have when my driver told me that he was going to charge me 80,000 schilings…..which was more than a trip to the airport. I even texted Lynn to confirm that I wasn’t getting taken.

But you know what, for the 90 minute ride, his 3 hrs waiting on site, and the return trip home, $40 wasn’t too bad. Plus, it was the only way I was going to get to this village about 3 miles off the main road on a broken and crackling dirt road into the distance.

This main room where three classrooms met was the only not earthen structure on site.

The other structures were either made out of mud, or bamboo with reeds as walls. I believe this is about as primitive as you can get in 2010 on planet Earth, although I am sure there are places that have even less. If you would like to support this school, or any school for that matter, the work I am doing in the cause of spreading art and peace across the globe, please feel free to make a contribution on this blog, or on our web site @ www.createpeaceproject.org
This photo shows you two classrooms. Broken chalk boards on the ground leaning against the reed walls. No books. No nothing. Students barely had things to write with.

And so I asked Joshua if we could gather in the main room. Bringing all the students, even the wee babies, learning their ABC’s off a yellow poster board in their mud room, into the main space for a little art making and peace time.

It was quite a setting. Benches were situated like a classroom facing the front….and I quickly requested that we rearrange the around the outside of the room and make a giant rectangle/circle where everyone could see each other.

We organized that quickly and then found that there were too many students to make one large group. So onto the floor went a tarp and the P6 and P7 students seated on the ground. And so it was time to begin.


I love to put a group of 120 excited and energized Ugandan students ~ fascinated by the tall white man in the room, curious as all get out about what in the world we are doing ~ into a moment of silence….a group meditation…. contemplating peace in their heart, breathing deeply, and sitting quietly for several minutes. I find this place to be an energizing and exhilarating moment where even I struggle to close my eyes because I want to see all of them in this state of calm, breath aware, and introspective. There is so much energy swirling. So much excitement. It’s great fun to ask everyone to close their eyes and breathe peacefully, if even for only one minute.

I meditate on my own before I arrive.

Have you ever been swarmed by mosquitos? Or accidently hit a bee hive with the tractor? You know that feeling of being surrounded by that pure intensity and energetic force of life pulsing towards you?

Well that’s kind of what it’s like when you pull out the art supplies in a rural (or any) school in Uganda. There are the moments when all is calm. Students are engaged and listening to the tall caucasian guest. Everything is peaceful, for it is peace we are discussing and the practice of being peaceful is what I am there engaging with them. The attentive, quite, calm, curious, shy, hesitant to speak, slow to raise ones hand, nearly fearful of speaking up in front of the class is quickly and almost instantaneously dissolved when a can of markers, or box of crayons gets opened.
As soon as the Art supplies come out……kids swarm. Hands fly. Reaching. Grabbing. “Master! Master! Master!” I ask them to sit. I gently usher them back to their seats, so that I can pass things out neatly and carefully into the hands awaiting…..but as soon as you begin to distribute them….the hands and bodies quickly come flying at your face.

I find it kind of enjoyable, exciting…..you are wanted and deeply sought after. You have something that they desperately want. Ten to fifteen pairs of hands flying in your face can be kind of overwhelming…..and somewhat fascinating…..because it is that pure excitement, a primal urge, and eagerness to get involved that has me smile back at them.




Namuleasa Muslim Primary School

Posted by / March 12, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments

This was an amazing workshop.
My first experience in a Ugandan School.
*
30 minutes outside Jinja
Namulesa Muslim Primary School
an empty room
sweep the floor
a quick wipe down
lay mats and pads to cover
enter 120 students
welcome
an introduction
a group circle
create a context
geography lesson
show maps
everyone sit
discuss peace and what it means to create peace in our lives
students share thoughts and feelings
group meditation
play a bit of music
open eyes
explain the Peace Pals project
pass out postcards
pass out art supplies
get creative
sharing messages
decorate postcards
clean up and collect supplies
group circle
share our creations

reinforce the practices
inspire and empower
be the example
pass in finished postcards
distribute postcards from U.S.
thank you

Peace Pals at Lawanda Primary School in Jinga

Posted by / March 11, 2010 / Categories: Uganda 2010 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments



Last week was an amazing week. Along with doing the mural project in town, I was fortunate enough to be connected to two local primary schools just outside of Jinga. Thanks to Soft Power and my friend Sharon, their director, for connecting me to these schools. You can check them out here: www.softpowereducation.com

On Friday afternoon, my friend Moses and I headed over to the Lawanda Primary School. A nice little school situated on a beautiful grassy knoll with an amazing tree in the middle of the hillside leading up to the school.

I was there to work with their P7 students. In Ugandan schools, unlike in American schools, students attend classes, not grades, labeled as P for primary, and S for secondary. There are 7 primary levels, and 4 secondary levels, plus 2 additional secondary pre-collegiate levels.

There are really no parameters of age for a given class level. If you pass your year-end exam, you move on to the next class level. And if not, you stay behind. So in any given class, you could have a 5 or 6 year (or more) age range between students depending on how quickly they learn and move forward.

In this P7 class there were about 120 students ranging in age and size from small little 12 year olds, to grown boys of 16. This is quite an interesting scenario, given that the younger kids are often quicker to understand what is going on and equally, if not more, capable to write and read as those 5 years older.

I shared with them about the Peace Pals project. As I have done in each of the five workshops I have led. I tell them about where I come from, showing them a map of the U.S. and where in California I reside. Given that in each of the five settings I have worked there has not been a map on the walls (nor any additional educational material, for that matter) I give them time to look at the map and really see where places are.

After showing the map of the U.S. I either show them a map of Africa, and/or a map of the world. I begin to explain to them how they are part of a huge project involving thousands of students and that not only are they receiving postcards from students in America, but they are going to be creating postcards, sharing their art and messages of peace, with students in India.

Using the world map, and also a map of India and the sub-continent, I show the students how the project is really world wide ~ connecting the U.S. to Uganda, Africa, and onto India.

Eyes wide, attentive, and eager to see the world, the map proves to be a highly effective tool to showcase the vastness of the geography of this planet, as well as the scope of this project they have randomly been selected to participate in.


During this afternoon workshop, I had the idea to take this group of 120 out of the classroom and talk to them about Peace and the expression of being peaceful outdoors. Having initiated the conversation in the classroom, a few of the students sharing their thoughts on peace as “freedom” and “Friendship”, “being kind to each other” and “sharing love”, I reminded them that peace is also a state of quite, of silence, of being at ease and calm within.

It was at that point that I asked them to single file their way out of the classroom, row by row, and make their way down to the magnificent tree in the yard bellow.



Standing in this circle around this glorious tree, we stood together in one giant circle. I asked them to consider what we had talked about inside and to feel where that “peace” resided inside. I then led them in a single rotation around the tree. Taking three steps back to make room, we slowly walked around the tree in silence. This was a powerful moment for me, watching as this group of students certainly did something they had never done before. Some laughed, others questioned the tall white man orchestrating this silly game around their tree.

But after completing the entire circle, the students arrived. They dropped in. We tightened the circle and stood in silence. I chimed my Tibetan cymbals and we took several breaths of peace together. There were tears, there were hearts opening, and there was a feeling of ease and relaxed joy on the faces of these students.

Upon completion of our meditation, we returned to the classroom in that same single file, and made out way into the creative aspect of this Peace Pals workshop.