Northern Uganda is one of the most traumatized places on earth. Low life expectancy, shockingly high suicide rates, limited educational opportunities, and crushing poverty are everyday realities for this small part of Africa. The over 20 years of war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army robbed many of their childhoods and continues to erode their sense of safety and peace of mind. We have interviewed local people and professionals in the field of trauma healing to ascertain what works best. We have examined where other ngos have succeeded and failed. Our plans include incorporating all we have learned to make this a place staffed with Ugandans where people feel free to drop in, to bring their children and to feel at home. Our guiding principle and pledge to the people of Gulu is “Nothing about us without us”.
Our proposed facility will include an art studio, a film-making studio, trauma counseling rooms, adult education classrooms and playground/sports facilities. Workshops that fit within the trauma healing and reflection mission of THARCE-Gulu will also be held here. It will house the permanent office where a full-time director and staff will work. It is anticipated that the plans will be completed this summer 2011, and we hope that building will begin by the end of the year. In the meantime, all workshops and other activities sponsored by THARCE-Gulu, will be held in rented or borrowed space in Gulu, either at Gulu University or another collaborating NGO building.
Like other people who have lost so much, those in Northern Uganda anticipate disappointment. People come but rarely return. Help is promised but not delivered. Although we are committed to continuing the mission of THARCE-Gulu, the people in Gulu expect to be let down. For the people of Gulu, a physical structure in their town with “THARCE-Gulu” painted on the front is not simply a place they can go for education, support, and therapy. It is not just a location where they can participate in film and music and art. It is not just a place for Americans to securely store material and equipment. It is all that, but more importantly, it represents commitment, dedication, loyalty, hope for a safer, more fulfilling, more peaceful life. It is a promise that we will return.