Story and Pictures by Candice Lassey, Field Comms Officer for Tutapona
Please note that this story - with its associated images - was produced before social distancing was enforced, following the outbreak of COVID-19. As a responsible global organisation, MAF is currently practising social distancing as per UK Government advice.
On the 3 February, MAF Uganda Pilot Matt Eagar delivered one of our Tutapona staff and a box of resources, including felt boards, peg people and clay, for our very first children’s trauma rehabilitation programme, called 'Hero's Journey' to Adjumani, Northern Uganda.
The programme focuses on building resilience and hope through gratitude, kindness, a genuine belief system, courage to combat shame, and forgiveness.
As children explore group-based therapeutic activities to unlock and heal the trauma that they have experienced in the process of leaving their home countries and living in a refugee camp, they are equipped with the skills they need to grow from their past experiences.
This MAF flight not only enabled our resources for this incredible curriculum to arrive safely and on time, but we were allowed a glimpse into the very first Hero's Journey programme in Adjumani, facilitated by Issa, a former child soldier and refugee himself.
'My name is Anna and I am 13 years old. I really enjoy school, I love learning how to write.
I was 7 years old when I came here from South Sudan’s capital, Juba. I remember the fighting, I remember having to drink dirty water polluted by sewage, I remember the gunmen who came to loot and kill. I remember it all very well.
Our mother was encouraged to bring us to safety here in Uganda- me, and my brother and sister. Our journey took 6 days and we saw many soldiers along the road side with guns, I was so afraid. We stopped at the reception centre at the border for 5 days while we were processed as refugees.
When we first arrived, I was relieved. But at night I couldn’t sleep - my mind continued to be full of so many thoughts and all of those memories. Even during the day I would just sit here, feeling miserable.
But God is good. My mother was told about Tutapona and the Hero's Journey and when I found out that I was coming here, I was very hopeful!
I’ve learnt about the power of courage and hope through stories. I heard about a man called Emmanuel who learned to work hard. Emmanuel only has one leg, but he wanted to ride a bicycle. He would fall off, but then keep getting up. He trained very hard and in time he learned how to ride his bicycle. He decided to ride far across the country and he became a hero because of his victory.
This taught me that learning is a gradual process, you learn every day and then you can succeed. I feel like this is something I can do, and it has inspired me to study hard so that I can accomplish my dreams and support my family. When I grow up, I want to continue helping people.
This programme is strengthening me. Deep breathing exercises are helping me remain calm, think clearly and reason better. It makes me feel fresh again.
'I know I am getting better. I have hope for my future that things will change!'
Anna* Hero's Journey participant
I learned from the programme that if I am angry or anxious, I can control those emotions and even use some of the tools to change that.
I’ve learned to appreciate things more. Like if the water is only half in the bottle, it means that I can focus on the fact that it is half full. I can see it in a good way, changing the negative to positive. This is what I learned about gratitude.
I learned all about the powers of a hero; to be thankful, to have faith and hope. Now, since being in the programme, I sleep better. I know I am still getting better, and I have hope for my future that things will continue to change!'