[I’ve been back for a couple of weeks but just now getting to write about this trip. These notes from each day come from my journal and don’t represent all that I did each day.]
Today (July 1), I landed midday at Entebbe airport just outside Kampala, Uganda. Entebbe is on the shores of Lake Victoria. I was met by Justus Rubarema of the Bible Society of Uganda as well as Klero Onuha of the Bible Society of South Sudan. Both men worth getting to know! We waited a bit for Margaret Hill’s plane arriving from Nairobi. Once gathered, we made for the Lweza Conference Centre about half way to the city of Kampala. Lovely grounds. Peaceful. Enjoyed the little monkeys eating flowers and looking for handouts (I had none).
I arrived at this conference (Community of Practice for Trauma Healing practitioners trained by the Bible Society) feeling fairly awake despite 26 hours of travel time. It may have helped a bit that I was unexpectedly bumped to business class on Qatar Airways from Philadelphia to Doha (a 13 hour leg). I suspect the lay flat seats had something to do with my feeling pretty good. Feeling good, I invited Margaret to go on a small walk around the area and on a quiet road outside the compound. Discussed some of her techniques to help quiet distress in participants where violence and trauma was ongoing (e.g., Bangui, CAR). We discussed the use of the “butterfly hug” as a means to calm. Also, discussed the use of drawing a place “bien etre” rather than a “safe place” since most participants she had did not have such a safe place at the present time. We finished our discussion of how to safeguard the mis-use of these calming techniques so that they would not be mis-represented as being more than they are, techniques used to help someone in the midst of distress.
Ended our day with a meal of rice, bananas, potatoes and chicken. Off to bed in hopes of getting on the right time zone quickly.
First full day of the conference (and FULL it was, 8am to 6:30pm). Attendees are all Ugandan plus Klero from South Sudan. Most are volunteers for the Bible Society, trained to provide healing groups using the Healing Wounds of Trauma materials. Some work with children, some with adults, some with ex-combatants, some with refugees, and some with women with HIV. The purpose of this conference is to add to their knowledge and skill base plus problem-solve as to how to provide more trauma healing experiences around the country—with almost no budget. Most of the country is well-represented including a number from Gulu and also the Nakivale refugee camp. More men than women. A couple of academic types are also present, representing both the Ugandan Counseling Association and the Ugandan Christian Counseling Association. Plus, one nun representing the faculty of a nearby Catholic college.
I presented on an update to listening skills which seemed well-received. This group is very willing to discuss, raise questions, and debate. I like it! It was requested that I offer some counseling sessions after dinner and so I did. Two men requested it and so I got a chance to hear about their ministries, their hearts, and their difficult struggles, both from the past and in the present. One of the things I am seeing here is that Ugandans need the wisdom of Solomon, the heart of David, and the integrity of Daniel, even when trying to deal with so-called Christian bosses. One fun fact is that the power went out right in the middle of one of the sessions. No problem. We could keep talking in pitch-dark! But by the time I fumbled with lighting a nearby candle, a generator kicked on and power was restored.