Well I made it! Months of planning, weeks of packing, days in flight and I finally made to the HOCW headquaters located outside the capital city of Kampala. It was a very warm welcome, with friendly faces and hot food! It took me a few days to get used to the 8 hour time difference, the lack of power, no hot water, and then no running water. There was a welcoming party for me last Thursday, and all the students came for the celebrations. There were signs everywhere welcoming me and thanking another volunteer Fiona, who had been here teaching for the last two months. There was one sign that said "We Love Empower Art!" There were speeches, singing and my favorite, dancing.
We had our first Empower Art women's workshop on Wednesday. The topic was power and empowerment, and there were 26 participants, and 3 translators. Though from different countries, cultures, religions, and language groups the women were able to come together and experience a sense of community and comradery Whether they spoke in French, English, Swahili, or Lugandan, the message was the same: They all experienced violence, and were looking forward to empowering themselves and working together for peace in their hearts, minds and community.
Wow, I can't believe that it is almost time to leave Austin and head to Africa for an adventure of a lifetime. There have been so many fantastic supporters who have contributed to this trip and wished me well. Thanks so much for those of you that came to the Clothing Swap fundraiser and Cupcakes and Cocktail party. It is bittersweet as I prepare to leave. I have said goodbye to the Trinity Center after 3 years, and 12 inches of my hair. I will soon say goodbye to the ones I love and modern conveniences like hot water, washing machines, reliable phone and internet services. But I am ready, I have all my shots, my bags are packed, have passport will travel! Uganda here I come!
Laramie Gorbett, Executive Director of Empower Art, will be traveling to Uganda to partner with a humanitarian organization called Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence. Laramie’s experience working with survivors, knowledge of nonprofit management and anthropology background will be vital to this partnership. She will be adapting Empower Art’s “My Power, My Art” curriculum to facilitate hope and healing for the refugee women and children survivors.
Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence was founded in March of 2008 by international volunteers who had a passion for the plight of women and children victims of violence. Located in Zana, HOCWUG serves Central African Refugees and Nationals in Uganda They are a non-profit humanitarian organization that seeks to instill hope, provide opportunities and offer support to the community we serve. HOCW programs focus on Education; Social and Economic Development and Health.
The HOCW community is made up of an ever changing population of Ugandans and refugees from DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan and other African countries. We work with victims of wars, rape, natural disasters, extreme poverty and illiteracy. Despite those hardships, the people we serve are eager to learn, industrial, generous and optimistic. For more information please visit our website at www.hocwug.org