I first visited Uganda in 2006 while on holiday from working in South Sudan. I took a 14-hour bus ride from Nairobi to Kampala and spent a week traveling in the Eastern part of the country, as well as in Kampala. I stayed in a place called Sipi Falls at a hostel some former Peace Corps volunteers had built as a tourism initiative; teaching the staff how to make guacamole and pancakes (not together), which was great. Since that time Uganda has been one of my favorite places and I was excited to be able to go back with YCI; first in May of last year and then again in February. Uganda is a beautiful country and Kampala is a great city: great people, good food, beautiful scenery.
Unfortunately, Uganda is often better known for the violence in the Northern part of the country and the impact of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) on the local population, not only in Uganda but in neighboring Sudan and DR Congo as well. While the LRA is not fully disarmed, nor inactive, the major violence has ended; northern refugee camps are being dismantled and IDPs are returning home. The emergency programs many international and UN agencies were running are starting to focus on re-settlement and development initiatives.
Not surprisingly, the focus of international aid organizations, the UN and the Ugandan government has been on the Northern part of the country, which has meant other areas have suffered from a lack of development initiatives and government support; eduction, employment and access to healthcare being central challenges. And, like the rest of East Africa, youth are an especially marginalized population in Uganda.
Following two assessment visits, YCI has teamed up with the Uganda Youth Network (UYONET) to pilot its first volunteer project in Kampala. UYONET implements youth-focused governance programs throughout Uganda and is connected with numerous other grass-roots youth organizations. A small group of YCI volunteers will be able to work alongside UYONET staff, live in Kampala, and work with young people to address issues of local governance, the ultimate output being a resource centre for UYONET that local youth will be able to access. The success of the pilot program will lead to a broader relationship with UYONET and YCI programming in a new East African country.
-Steve Cumming, International Programs Director