Due to previous discussions about the needs of his village, the LC had called a meeting for leading business men and women from the village to meet us and to hear our ideas and for us to hear about the needs in their village. In true Ugandan style, the meeting started late - but only by 2.5 hours and overall we found it to be a very productive meeting!
Jesca and I began by explaining to the small group gathered there why we had decided to try a pilot project called "Adopt a Village" in their particular village. We had resettled two children back to their Grandmother and father to this village in July 2011. Also a few months ago it had also been flagged up that this village had also been targeted by child traffickers when a vulnerable mother and her three children had been offered the "opportunity" of international adoption to the US. We therefore decided there was a urgent need in this village for widespread education about international adoption, child trafficking and child protection to protect all the children and their families from potential exploitation.
We wondered if it would be useful to the village if we employed a part time social worker to be based there for a dual purpose. To potentially work on preventative measures to stop children entering the orphanage system in the first place and also to prevent children from being trafficked into the system for the purpose of international adoption. We also wondered if it would be helpful for the village community to have access to an adult literacy and numeracy course because being illiterate makes you even more vulnerable to having your children taken away from you and from being taken advantage of. We also wondered if it would be helpful to set up some economic empowerment projects to continue to not only empower the family who are already on our Reunited programme but also to put other vulnerable parents/legal guardians on who would be flagged up to us for participation by the LC (local council) , the Probation services and/or by the local child protection police officer so that they could have the opportunity to work their own way out of poverty. The parents/Grandparents there shared how appreciated they were of the fact that our pilot project was going to be an inclusive project including the adults as well as the children and not an exclusive project only focusing on the children which in essence would separate and discarded the significant adults in the childrens lives.
As our very own Jesca Akello Otai says -
"The family have to be the first mechanism for child protection mechanism within the community. By leaving out the family we are essentially leaving out our best chances of a successful outcome"
We worked with the most charming and humorous translator we have had the pleasure of working with in Uganda so far. When I shared a little bit about my background with them all about how I used to be a professional singer, as sharp as a knife, the interpreter asked me to sing them all a song! The fact that this gentleman is successful AND blind is even more impressive in the fact that he has made such a success of his life in a country that doesn't always give equal opportunity to people with a special need or a disability. It was genuinely a pleasure to work with him.
Here are some photographs of all the people who were present at the meeting yesterday. The LC will chat with them all over the next week to see what they thought about the issues we discussed and he will them arrange another meeting for us to talk again.
We are really looking forward to seeing how our pilot project - "Adopt a Village" develops.