Hollywood, IRC Help Ugandan Young People Stage Dramas in Refugee Camp
The Voices of Uganda program —conducted outside the Labuje internally displaced persons' camp in the northern district of Kitgum — culminated in a set of original dramas on themes such as HIV/AIDS prevention and the acceptance of former child soldiers back into their families and communities. Hundreds of people attended the final performance.
"In a matter of a couple of weeks the young people have become more empowered to express themselves, and that's a huge benefit as they and their communities negotiate the difficult process of return and reintegration," said IRC director of advocacy Shannon Meehan, who helped organize the Hollywood group's visit. "The project complements IRC psychosocial and Child and Youth Protection and Development programming in Kitgum District," Meehan added.
Central to the workshops was an emphasis on a "safe space" in which participants were free and encouraged to take risks without fear or reproach from those around them. "They picked up on the 'safe space' quickly, and once they did, we started to see some of them step out of themselves in very powerful ways," said Fitzgerald, who is best known for her role in the television series "The West Wing."
The participants brought a range of experiences and backgrounds to the workshops: some were former child soldiers, some were orphans, and many had young children of their own. All had suffered in some way as a result of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army activities in Northern Uganda.
Many of the young people noted how important the messages of the performances were to the community. One 20-year-old, abducted by the LRA in 2003 and kept away from his family for two years, said, "When they see these dramas, people get to know how they can forgive one another."
The group from the U.S. included actors, commercial and film producers, and film crew members, most of whom had worked extensively as mentors and teachers with Voices in Harmony which is a youth arts organization committed to empowering the voices and visions of at-risk teens. Their programs cultivate personal, academic, and artistic excellence.
The workshops and performances were recorded by a film crew for a documentary to be released sometime in early 2008 and also for an IRC advocacy film about Northern Uganda.
Voices of Uganda photoset on FlickrHow to Help
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