Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Posts tagged ‘Uganda’

Finding My Way Back Home

This post was written by Umeeda Umedaly Switlo, who has worked with CUSO-VSO for nearly four years as the Public Engagement Officer for the Western Region of Canada and the US.

I decided to work with CUSO to affect change and, being from Uganda, I really had a deep connection to that region. My late husband had passed away from HIV/AIDS and that disease was taking a real toll on the people around the world. I wanted to make a difference and lead a purposeful life.

At first opportunity, I travelled to Uganda on a communications assignment for CUSO on my holidays. I took my daughter Nareena with me and was hoping she would make some connection to Africa. I had left the country as a refugee in 1972. We had lost everything and my family was scattered around the world. This event changed my life but I knew somehow that I wanted to see Uganda again.

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Holding the Mirror: On Writing “The Dry Season” through the Diasporic Lens

This post was written by Juliane Okot Bitek, storyteller and author of upcoming book “The Dry Season”. “The Dry Season” is a non-fiction book based on the experience of three women who were kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a guerrilla group that terrorized northern Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1987. All photos by Lara Rosenoff.

The pull to return and belong; to change and yet remain the authentic self, is what most distinguishes us, the people of the diaspora, from those who refer to themselves as native born. In that tension is the quality that we of the diaspora have an uncanny recognition for; within ourselves and others who struggle with it. It is also a place of empowerment and agency, where we can claim both sides of the divide while maintaining a Janus perspective. For me, as one who holds the mirror and is the image in the mirror, this is the place from which I recognize the women survivors of the Lord’s Resistance Army. These women, all kidnapped as girls and trained as rebel fighters become adults, all the while maintaining what little childhood memory they have. They are my sisters, cousins, daughters, friends, neighbours — these are my kinfolk, the women from my homeland. They are me and I am them.

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An Evening of Storytelling: The Education for Development Dialogue

This post was written by Chloë Straw, Project Research Assistant.

The Engaging Diasporas in Development Project held its third dialogue, Education for Development, on May 18th, 2011. Ten impassioned storytellers recounted a mosaic of personal anecdotes that served to explore three central questions: (1) what kind of education is needed for development? (2) How do educational projects create opportunities and choices? And (3) what is unique and inspiring about diaspora-led educational strategies for development?

The evening commenced with a warm welcome and introduction to the project from co-directors Shaheen Nanji and Dr. Joanna Ashworth. Invoking the words of the influential Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, Dr. Ashworth spoke of education as a dialogue between people, based on the facts of their lives, which should not be confused or contorted into a banking system that “makes deposits of knowledge into others.” She also stated that, education is “an act of freedom” and that, for the purposes of the evening, ‘development’ should simply be understood as “the process of change, from one state to another.”

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Improving Global Health: Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Featured Speakers of the evening - Back row: Marj Ratel, Ashok Mathur, Dr. Shafique Pirani, Mohammad Zaman, Lyren Chiu, Derek Agyapong-Poku, Jerry Spiegel, Steven Pi. Front row: Shaheen Nanji, Ajay Puri, Dr. Kojo Assante, Joanna Ashworth

This post was written by Shaheen Nanji, Project Co-Director; Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher; and Chloë Straw, Project Research Assistant.

On March 16, 2011 the Engaging Diasporas in Development Project convened the second in its series of public dialogues. The dialogue was entitled Improving Global Health and covered three core themes: (1) the unique skills and experiences of diasporas influencing health; (2) how these experiences are transforming health practices and systems; and (3) tapping the current and potential impacts in Canada and beyond.

The first session opened with an overview of global health by Dr. Jerry Spiegel, an associate professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. Dr. Spiegel explained that international health becomes global health when the causes and consequences of health issues circumvent, undermine or are oblivious to the boundaries of the state and thus beyond the capacity of any one nation to address. He also spoke of the huge disparities between the need and the capacity to deliver health services, speaking to the reality that the majority of health care providers (many of whom are from the Global South) are in North America and Europe while the burden of disease is overwhelmingly in Africa and Asia.

With these important points in mind, Ayumi Mathur brought participants into small groups, asking them to consider and discuss what health means to them as individuals. Further adding to this focus on health at the personal level, the group heard from a diverse group of storytellers.

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Vancouver doctor brings a cure for clubfoot to children in Uganda

A Ugandan baby born with the potentially crippling congenital disorder know as "clubfoot." Photo: USCCP

This post was written by Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher and MA in International Studies at Simon Fraser University.

In 1998 Dr. Shafique Pirani returned to Uganda to visit his birthplace and childhood school. A member of the Ismaili diaspora, Dr. Pirani had been among those expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin’s government in 1972. In making preparations to visit the country of his birth, he had not intended to tackle problems of Ugandan public health, but while on that visit he bore witness to a problem that he was uniquely qualified to diagnose and address.

Years before his fateful trip to Uganda, Dr. Pirani had taken a research interest in a congenital musculoskeletal disorder known commonly as clubfoot. This disorder occurs in roughly 1 in 1000 children and, if untreated, leads to deformation of the feet. This can leave the sufferer walking on the sensitive dorsum (top) of the foot, resulting in chronic pain, immobility, ulcerations, infection and, often, stigmatization. At the time of Dr. Pirani’s visit, the most commonly practiced treatment for clubfoot around the world was corrective surgery.

Surgical treatment for clubfoot in Uganda was not an option. In a country of 28 million with a birth rate of 3.5% annually, approximately 1500 Ugandan children are born with clubfoot every year. As late as 2008 the country had 20 practicing orthopedic surgeons, most of whom were concentrated in Kampala and focused on trauma. Dr. Pirani recognized a dire need for alternative treatments for clubfoot in Uganda that could be economically and socially feasible.

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Vancouver’s diaspora shares development stories

Dialogue story tellers gathered together before the Engaging Diasporas in Development dialogue. Photo: Greg Ehlers.

This post was written by Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher and MA in International Studies at Simon Fraser University.

On January 19, 2011 the Engaging Diasporas in Development Project convened the first in its series of public dialogues. The dialogue was entitled “Innovations in Poverty Reduction and Economic Development” and covered three core themes: responding to basic needs through grassroots mobilizations, business and economic development, and tapping the potential: learning from the diaspora.

Participants began filtering into the Morris J. Work Centre for Dialogue amid considerable buzz. Soon thereafter, as the sounds of dozens of conversations mingled above the assembly, a single voice cut through the din and invited everyone to join together in conversation and collaboration. Vanessa Richards urged the participants to join in song and for the next few minutes the diverse crowd became a united chorus. With melody and harmony still reverberating through the room, the dialogue had begun.

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The Power of $100

Photo: Doug Olthof.

This post was written by Miriam Egwalu, a member of the Ugandan diaspora in Vancouver.

My story started when I went to Uganda in March, 2009 after my Mom passed away. During the burial and afterwards, I noticed that there were more women than men. Most of the women were either very old or very young single mothers. The men were also very old or very young. I later realized that most of the men had been killed in the 25 year war that had ravished Northern Uganda and that the others had moved to towns and cities to try and find work, leaving behind wives to take care of the kids and grandparents.

When I interviewed one of the older ladies, she informed me that most of the women get no support from their husbands who have moved to cities and some are widowed with numerous children to support. She was one of the widowed. She was left with 6 kids to take care of. Her oldest daughter was not going to school because she needed her to help in the garden and other chores. The other 5 kids were being supported by a charity organization in order for them to go to school.

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