Art as therapy under trees and in a run down school once completely overtaken by a rebel group has evolved. It’s been six years. The evolution has come in proportion to grassroots community relationships. It has been defined largely by understanding the need to alleviate trauma, prioritize potable water and help revitalize and inspire a long-taxed agrarian people with a sense of reciprocity. We quickly deduced a model that would afford war-affected youth (ex-combatant & non ex-combatant children) community-based art as therapy while helping to bring clean drinking water to their community. Community is the backbone of this effort. It’s always been. It is led by local leaders who understandlocal cultural complexities, have themselves experienced the scars of war, and work hard to uplift health, education and basic livelihood.
As the region of northern Uganda continues to stabilize people make a difficult transition from dependency on international aid taking autonomy over their own livelihood. This is quite a challenge as most live off the inconsistent power grid, lack potable water and means of storing food and are subject rampant disease. If they are to emerge from the fog of war successfully and increase standards the people of this region must see, firsthand, local people demonstrating what is possible to improve water and food security, and educational standards.
With government mandated living in internally displaced persons camps lifted, we began to connect the therapeutic and educational sides of art making and access to water with entrepreneurship education that would prepare people to provide food and means to sustain themselves. Our desire is to culture youth in the value of water and innovative practices in farming and animal husbandry while giving them the opportunity to participate in implementation. The response has been tremendous and a great source of excitement and involvement from the community. In February of 2011 we broke ground on the farm otherwise known as the Center for Sustainability. In June of we hired three Ugandan staff to oversee growing programs. Shortly thereafter, we introduced a weekly farm-based entrepreneurship program to compliment the ongoing art programs.