Puppies of Pader

*pronounced PUH-DAY [title derived from an inside joke that isn’t even really that funny].

I spent time this week in Northern Uganda working to implement our Akola Academy program with the women working in Pajule (Pader District). This program applies participatory rural appraisal techniques, which is fancy development jargon for basically using local voices to inform our program structure. I really appreciate working for an organization that aims to incorporate knowledge and opinions of the people who participate in our programs – you’d be surprised to learn how many don’t.

I was refreshed by the camaraderie of preparing a good meal and enjoying conversation with our Acholi staff member and her two closest female confidants in Pajule. Her sister and friend both work jobs that in some way contribute to developing the community. In Uganda, while chopping onions and frying the fish, its common to debate/muse/lament over issues such as children getting hookworm from traversing feces-filled latrine floors barefooted, P6 (sixth grade) students being unable to read and write (due to many factors, one of which being a classroom of 300 paired with only 2 teachers), or the temptation to marry girl children/young adults off because it’s fast cash (dowry/bride price) as opposed to investing in her education. Depending on the day, discussions like this could dampen or energize my spirits. Yesterday, as I sat chatting and laughing and learning amongst women I admire, in a region of this country that continues to impress itself upon my heart, I felt hopeful. The problems are so many. But strong, bright, dedicated people are committed to doing the slow, hard work of solving them. They are identifying root issues – dependency in a post-war zone for one – and challenging their community to think critically and work hard to better themselves and their families.

I sat yesterday at our center in Lapul subcounty, trying to take in all the details of the muvule, mahogany and acacia trees; of the children laughing and hugging me; of the tall dry season grass; of the sounds from the nearby weekly market; of the lingering lilting Acholi speech; of the women so excited to save, work and plan for their futures; of the hard discussions that make me unable to bask in comfort, safety, and “easy” for too long without feeling motivated to keep pushing. I am grateful for the opportunity to work hard and well. I am grateful to (most days) feel fulfilled and purposeful. I hope you’re feeling the same where you find yourself.

Apwoyo matek.

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