Saturday, July 21, 2012
Internship day means a conclusion to the intensive IPSS course and dispersing around various areas of Gulu. I have been placed, along with Hannah, at the Center for Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, a new partnership for GSSAP this year. After two separate boda boda interactions and a few vain attempts at asking for directions on the roadside, we managed to find the location directly at the end up the main market road. The program coordinator received us at the gate and led us into a house turned NGO building. CRR really is the embodiment of a grassroots, community oriented NGO provider. The Center provides legal aid, largely focusing on land mediation at the village level, and psychosocial support services. The focus around mental health, land dispossession and mediation illustrates in post conflict Northern Uganda - the two are deeply connected. Understanding the importance of the homestead as economic provider and cultural institution allows CRR to address both making the organization fully committed to a multi-pronged approach to transformative justice.
We were introduced to a relatively small staff: financial officer, two paralegals, counselor, security, one lawyer, and two interns. After introductions we were pointed to our desks just in time for breakfast & tea, which is provided daily by the organization, well up to 500 Uganda Shillings per person. Winnie, a fellow intern, came out of the kitchen and asked Hannah and I “What escort would you like?” I don’t quite recall the jumbled words that came out of my mouth, but I think I must have explained than I can consume my breakfast on my own. Thanks. My blank face prompted an explanation followed by prolonged laugher from the staff. “No, what food would you like to escort your tea. Egg, fruit, chapatti, or samosa.” Oh. Right. The staff seemed to find the whole misunderstanding quite entertaining and made it a running joke for the remainder of the week.
The day was characterized with stereotypical Acholi hospitality and I immediately felt welcome. We definitely fired off a range of questions the first day pertaining to land reconciliation, community organizing in Northern Uganda, and the changing NGO landscape in Gulu that were all patiently answered. We continued the conversation at a traditional restaurant during the hour lunch break at a nearby restaurant. Our coordinator Simon made sure we sampled a range of items - millet bread, gnut sauce, goat, sweet potatoes, ect. Work will definitely pick up next Monday as we will have a participant-observation opportunity with a counselor working with juvenile offenders at Gulu Prison, attend a conference on survivors of torture CRR was invited to at Boma Hotel led by the UNHCR, and attend a land mediation case in the outskirts of Gulu.