Saturday, 10 December 2011


Early this morning busses arrived to transport the 200 odd campers, counselors, and staffers back to their homes at the far flung ends of Uganda. As goodbyes were made, the boys stacked their mattresses and swept out the dorms. It took many of us the entire day to reach our respective towns and villages with campers in tow, but we couldn't be happier.

Soon, we will begin reflecting on our experiences and upload info on the creative projects prepared by the boys throughout the week. Until then . . . Thanks for following!

Your bloggers,

Jeff, Joanna, Nick

the geography room

Friday, 9 December 2011

Day 5 (morning): gender equality plays out on the field.

In line with today’s theme of Building Uganda, the campers from BUILD walked over to the girl’s camp, Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) to practice their teamwork and leadership skills while playing kickball, tug-of-war, sack races, and an obstacle course in mixed boy/girl camper teams. GLOW campers were ready and excited to welcome the BUILD boy’s to their camp. Group chants and songs were exchanged and many teams even created new team names. The GLOW Crocodiles and BUILD Enjojos (elephants) became the Crocajojos for the day. One GLOW camper group presented the BUILD boy’s with friendship bracelets. So cute! The Peace Corps country director and United States Ambassador were on hand to observe and even participate in the games. All of the campers were on their best behavior and they relished in the chance to work as team with members of the opposite sex, celebrating gender equality. After the games came to an end, campers from both Camp BUILD and Camp GLOW presented official camp shirts to both the Peace Corps country director and the U.S. Ambassador.

Day 4 (evening): kids put to the test.

After days of learning and sharing information on topics ranging from how to use a condom to the making of organic fertilizer, the campers knowledge was put to the test. Trivia was held after dinner, with each camper group competing against each other.  Counselors and staff were on had to clarify questions, but coming up with the answers was up to the campers. Trivia ended with a tie between the Great Grey Tigers and the Cheetahs, with the Great Grey Tigers winning in the third round of sudden death.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Day 4: exploring nature and the environment.

Today we celebrated the environment of Uganda, visiting an organic demonstration garden and a beach at Lake Victoria.

At the beach, some kids played football and volleyball while others searched for crocodiles. Unfortunately, they found only one lone dinosaur. Jason, a counselor of the Young Stars, wanted to make sure that his kids learned something among the fun they were having at the beach. Before they left, he gathered his boys and asked them to pick up trash. They took multiple trips up and down the hill, and by the second trip the other groups joined in. One of the Young Stars commented to another boy as he passed, "We are the leaders. You are all followers."

Before long, everyone was walking up the road to find the demonstration garden. Once there, kids toured alongside Peace Corps Volunteers Jesse and Drew. Experts in organic gardening and permaculture, they talked to the kids about drip irrigation, mulching, composting, and intercropping, as they walked through the demonstration gardens.

After lunch, the kids watched a bit of Planet Earth, before working on their personal projects. More on that later.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Day 3: Health Education Day!

HIV/AIDS- The session is opened with an interactive example of how quickly the HIV/AIDS virus can spread and morph into an energizer reinforcing that THEY, the campers, have the power to protect themselves for contracting HIV/AIDS. Information on the virus is shared and the campers learn how to protect themselves and others.

Reproductive Health- Puberty and its associated changes are discussed with the campers. They are provided information on safe sex options and the various methods of contraception. Then, campers are talked through the proper way to put on, take off, and dispose of a condom, plus they are all given the chance to practice on a model.

Water & Sanitization- Campers are taught how to construct a tippy-tap (a hand washing device made from local materials), make a pit latrine cover to protect against fly’s, and introduced to the basics of personal hygiene.

Day 2 (evening): drama opens door to debate

Tonight we invited the girls from Camp Glow to a Rafiki Theatre production about domestic violence. The boys were super excited to host the event. They busied themselves hauling additional chairs down from the balcony and, then, all of a sudden 150 girls showed up on the sidewalk outside assembly hall. The boys rushed to greet them. They then filed inside, found their seats, and the production started. Like earlier in the day the piece was powerful.

The oldest in their repertoire, Nyumbani is translated as 'home'. The drama focuses on the effects of domestic violence. The kids witnessed scenes of mental, physical, and psychological violence. It was emotional for everyone in the room and the kids expressed themselves vocally throughout. The talkback session provided time for the kids to express their individual feelings and begin to understand how other genders see these issues.

Throughout Camp BUILD the counselors will continue to talk to the boys about gender-based violence and why it is wrong.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

the smallest of voices shouts down domestic violence.

Rauland, a great grey tiger, is from a village in Kasese where his family grows fairly traded organic coffee. His favorites activity is football. Yesterday, he led a presentation during the Raising Voices session, dramatically telling his group's viewpoint. Later, challenging another boy, he said, "Men are women are equal. You are CRAZY!" He is now excited to tell all his villagers that domestic violence is wrong. He has also learned the definition of Camp BUILD and how to resolve conflicts peacefully. "I am excited that the camp has taught me so much in such a short time," he says.

Day 2 (afternoon): Resolving Conflict

Conflict Resolution via Drama- Campers were given a brief introduction to the various approaches to conflict resolution and several scenarios were assigned to the camper groups.  The campers had to create two skits, one that solves the conflict without violence, in a positive way, and one that shows how NOT to solve conflict.  When the skits were over, the campers were confident that they possessed the skills to peacefully solve conflict when they return to their communities.

Conflict Resolution via Sports- The campers gathered on the pitch with Phillip, a Saint Mary's College staffer, and began a discussion on the various types of conflicts people encounter.  Footballs were brought out and the challenge of problem solving was seen in a new light with the referee as moderator.

Day 2 (morning): Building Community, a discussion on how to curb violence and empower women.

Today we began with a general assembly. Waiting for the directors to arrive, the campers began to chant their theme songs. The gorillas beat their chests, the Eagles flapped their wings, and the excitement built as each group tried to outdo the other. Soon, the directors arrived. After a short lesson in American Sign, they discussed the program for the day. Today we have visitors from Rafiki Theatre and Raising Voices in the morning, starting conversations about gender equality and violence. In the afternoon we have sessions on conflict resolution


Domestic Violence and Gender Equality- The campers were introduced to the various types of domestic violence and then broke into their camper groups to create their own definitions of domestic violence.  Campers put to use their critical thinking skills.  An open dialogue was held and individual campers were given the opportunity to share their attitudes about domestic violence and the impact it has on the family unit and the individual.

In the main hall, Rafiki Theatre presented Sweet School, a story about how a teacher finds a group of students 'misbehaving' and canes a student as punishment. The play next switches to a scene where a girl is bullied and sexually harassed by her new classmates. Rosemary, a founding member of Rafiki, says that the play is one of the oldest in their two-year repertoire. 

In one poignant scene an actor is told to kiss the foot of a boy. She complies reluctantly, as others shove her to the ground. She kneels. Kisses. As the students further continue to harass her, another girl steps forward to defend her. When she is also harassed, she backs the boy off. Stands up for herself. Then, the actor turns and addresses the boys in the audience directly. "Why are you laughing?" The boys quiet as she talks about how such harassment affects girls in the village and the school, who are sometimes just looking for a safe place to be themselves. Finally, she turns back and the play continues.

Following the performance, one of the actors led a discussion. As ideas of other ways to interact were brought up, the boys became part of the performance to try out their ideas with the actors in play.

In discussion, the boys were asked. "Do you the boys think that what you are doing is good?" "How does his intervention change the situation?" The answers to these questions fed further discussion in small groups.

This is the first time that Rafiki has performed for a single-sex audience. Normally it is the girls challenging the boys on sexual harassment. Rosemary was surprised that today, for the first time, some of the boys filled that role and challenged the others on whether sexual harassment is okay. Yet, Rosemary says, "Sometimes I think we have a long way to go." 

Moonflower Update: Camper Paul.

Meet Paul. He is a moonflower from Jinja. He says that he is enjoying meeting new friends, is grateful for the discipline Camp BUILD is instilling, and is learning about many new things. He wishes to teach the people in his village the knowledge he has gained while attending Camp BUILD.

Paul is pictured with Patrick, his sign language interpreter, and Amanda, his camp counselor.

Monday, 5 December 2011

from camp to camp, Swizen finds a new way to increase his impact.

Not all of the counselors at Camp BUILD are Peace Corps volunteers.  Many PCV’s have a Ugandan counselor counterpart.  Their reasons for participating in Camp BUILD vary, but Swizen was motivated to play a larger role at BUILD after participating at Peace Camp in Gulu in August.  “I saw the great things that were happening and the impact the camp was having on the youth.  When I heard about Camp BUILD I wanted to participate in a larger capacity.”  After spending less than 24hrs with his BUILD campers -'Young Stars', Swizen already feels a connection with the boys.  

Swizen is a member of Rafiki Theater, a performance group that uses dramas to educate people about domestic violence, bullying in schools, and sexual violence.  Rafiki Theater will be performing at camp on Tuesday.

moonflowers: a group finds its voice

When you meet Amanda, the first thing you might notice is her cackle. When she laughs it reverberates around the room and can be heard as far as a kilometer. Her group, moonflowers, has an equally distinctive voice. Amanda says of the campers, "They are all different. Unique. Pretty awesome in their own ways." When it came to choosing a name for their group, many of the boys stared blankly but one ventured forth with an idea: Moonflowers. The next morning he handed Amanda a slip of paper with the following chant:

We are one.
We are one
We are one. Moonflowers.

They sign and chant it together as they walk about the campus.

You might think that working with two hearing impaired boys would splinter the group but Amanda says the opposite is true. "It's fantastic. It's more of an adhesive. None of the others are bothered by it."

Today, they participated with other teams in two games: a scavenger hunt and a bottle pass. It was a focus on team building and an introduction to leadership. In spite of their differences, Amanda says, "They are a unit. I really like that." It is not only displayed in the ways that the boys race together in the games, but also the leadership that Amanda displays. To better communicate with her campers, she is learning yet another language. And so are the campers. Everyone has a sign name (Amanda's is an index finger to the forehead) and is learning simple phrases in American sign language.

Amanda is hoping that during the week the boys might come more out of their shells and form genuine friendships. Her experience with the Peace Camp in August has taught her that is possible. In addition, she believes to empower Uganda women, boys need men to model respectable behavior. Camp BUILD? "This is the kind of thing we need."

Day 1: Camp BUILD begins in earnest.

Day 1 has just begun and already all the staff and campers are getting into the swing of things! We have placed the 15 groups into 3 classes. In these classes we had the campers learning the following:

Goal Setting- Campers were given questions about self reflection about their skills and strengths by asking themselves basic questions: What am I good at? What interests me? This session is to teach goal setting and a plan for achieving those goals.

Team Building- Kids competed in two games: a scavenger hunt and pass the bottle. Afterward they had a discussion about leadership and what types of leadership skills are important in different situations. This helped them bond even more, which will be in important throughout the week.

Debate- Groups learned the importance of debate, fact vs. opinion and how to conduct an effective debate. The major debate discussed was the drinking age of Uganda and if it should be 18 or 16 (the current drinking age in Uganda is 18). The goal of this session is to communicate with peers and to research as much as possible in order to give support to your answer and show leadership.

Each camper and staff participated in these activities and seemed enthusiastic and relished the chance to do their part. More updates tonight!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Opening Ceremony Today

Hello all followers, we had our registration and opening ceremony today and we have received all of our campers. The campers, counselors, and all the staff are excited for this week long camp and have already had a football match and campers separated into 15 groups and introduced themselves to one another. Everyone also learned the Camp Build Song, which is the following:

“Build It” (“Beat It”)
Build it, build it, build it, build it
Oh you know you gotta build it
Show me your talent
Show me your smarts
There’s nothing to it
Just give it all your heart
We’ve got boys coming from country-wide
Were giving all we’ve got, we’re using all our might
We’re Building up our country and we’re making it right

By the time camp ends, everyone should have memorized it. Tomorrow is the first full day of camp and we shall provide even more updates and pictures tomorrow, thanks for reading from everybody at Camp Build!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

1st Day, Schedule of the week


You are cordially invited…

Peace Corps Uganda and St. Mary’s College- Kisubi will host Camp BUILD, a leadership camp for Ugandan boys December 4th-10th. The camp will bring 150 boys from all over Uganda together for a unique opportunity to develop skills in critical thinking, teamwork, gender equality, celebrating diversity, and goal setting. BUILD, which stands for Boys of Uganda in Leadership Development, brings together boys between the ages of 13 and 15. Camp BUILD will focus on five main themes throughout the week, as described below:

Monday, 5 Dec 2011: BUILDing Yourself- Campers will be divided into fifteen groups of ten boys and spend time getting to know people from different backgrounds. There will also be sessions dedicated to self-esteem and goal setting as well as a camper-led debate meant to harness their critical thinking.

Tuesday, 6 Dec 2011: BUILDing Community- This day focuses on developing individual’s ability to effectively work within a community setting. This includes skills in conflict resolution, self- awareness, and gender equality. Raising Voices Uganda, an NGO dedicated to eradicating violence against women and children, will facilitate a workshop to these ends. Peace Corps Volunteers and host country nationals will lead the boys in learning the importance of peaceful conflict resolution and developing the aptitude to implement this. Finally, Rafiki Theatre, a Kampala-based interactive forum theatre troupe, will perform plays around school violence, gender-based violence, and self-esteem.

Wednesday, 7 Dec 2011: BUILDing Your Health- This day addresses health concerns among Ugandan youth, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS. Peace Corps Volunteers and Ugandan community leaders will lead workshops with the boys dedicated to HIV/AIDS, as well as other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), malaria, reproductive health, water & sanitation, and personal hygiene.

Thursday, 8 Dec 2011: BUILDing the Environment- Thursday focuses on being environmental stewards and respect and conservation of Uganda’s natural resources. Trees for the Future, a Ugandan NGO, will educate the youth about the dangers of deforestation and the importance of preserving Uganda’s abundant resources. He will then lead them in a tree-planting effort around Kisubi. Finally, the boys will have an opportunity to visit the Bega Kwa Bega (Swahili for “shoulder to shoulder”) farm to learn about sustainable agriculture.

Friday, 9 Dec 2011: BUILDing Uganda- In this culmination of the week’s activities, the campers will utilize the skills they have developed all week to become more responsible and active citizens of Uganda. The boys will engage in service projects around the St. Mary’s campus to practically apply the skills they have learned. Also, campers will use creative expression in Personal Projects they have been learning all week to articulate the lessons of the week. Campers will be able to choose between outlets such as creative writing, critical thinking project, drama, break-dancing, art, and music. The boys will also have an opportunity to put their new knowledge of gender equality into practice with a combined session with Peace Corps all-female Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), and hear remarks from our key-note speaker, Brother Edward Bukenya of St. Mary’s College. Upon returning to their community, the boys will be asked to establish BUILD clubs and share these new-found skills with other boys in their communities.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

an expression of love

An important part of the Camp Build experience is giving the boys an outlet to express themselves. Throughout the week, the boys will have the opportunity to work with trained professionals to develop pieces in drama, music, creative writing, and visual art. Then, at the end of the week, the boys will share their creative expressions during an evening of, well, song and dance.

One of our visiting artists is Doreen Nayebare. Her role at Camp Build is to teach drama to campers. She will be working with two other instructors to improve each boy's individual talent and prepare a dramatic piece to showcase the best of the boys' aspirations. 

Doreen credits her mother for instilling leadership skills at a young age. "My mother always told me to be confident in life and be exemplary to others." Although Doreen was born in south-central Uganda and now lives in the capital city of Kampala, she was raised with two brothers and two sisters in the west, a place she still considers home. Doreen recalls that life was very interesting and fun as a child. "I used to entertain the whole family after dinner by dancing to the music that would be playing on radio or TV. My family thought I was naughty but I know this was the basis of my career of being a dramatist." 

Doreen's journey as an artist was accelerated by attending some of the best schools and universities in Uganda and exercising her skills as a student leader. As an acting student at Makerere University in Kampala, she worked on many projects ranging from radio and TV to staged and community drama. In her final year, she worked on a theater for development project aimed at empowering pupils in both primary and secondary schools. The traveling troupe used drama to address problems faced by these students and explore possible solutions. It is this experience that drew her to working with the boys at Camp Build.

Doreen says, "I am most excited about seeing the boys change for the best -- right from the beginning to the end. And seeing the boys act is really exciting huhuuuhhuu... i cant wait…….."