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Smile for Peace

The contribution of YOLRED to former child combatants, single mothers, children and the disenfranchised is to serve and build peace .

Photo of Geoffrey Omony

Written by

The Foundation for the Reconciliation dedicates all of its efforts to promoting the theory and practice of Forgiveness and Reconciliation as fundamental for the transformation of the conflicts and violent practices of individuals and communities. Thus, it seeks to contribute to building a culture of sustainable peaceful coexistence.

The violence in its different manifestations has sowed and continues sowing anger, resentment and desires for revenge that should be understood and dealt with by different enlightened individuals who envision worlds of “PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE” (living together cooperatively), solidarity, and justice and peace- worlds in which daily life is less painful.

The Schools of Forgiveness and reconciliation (ESPERE, acronyms for Escuelas del Perdon y Reconciliacion) are a proposal for a form of community work in which facilitators guide participants in the transformation of their anger, hatred, resentment and desire for vengeance – provoked by aggressions against them – into a way out of the troubled present. In place of repertoires of solutionless pain, trauma, participants are taught to overcome these affective challenges in a safe and guided setting.

Explain your idea

The Schools of Forgiveness and reconciliation (ESPERE, acronyms for Escuelas del Perdon y Reconciliacion) are a proposal for a form of community work in which facilitators guide participants in the transformation of their anger, hatred, resentment and desire for vengeance – provoked by aggressions against them – into a way out of the troubled present. In place of repertoires of solutionless pain, trauma, participants are taught to overcome these affective challenges in a safe and guided setting.

Who Benefits?

For nearly three decades starting in the late 1980’s, over 60,000 girls and boys in Northern Uganda were forcibly conscripted into fighting a guerilla war against their government, under the brutal domination of the Lord’s Resistance Army. In war that displaced 1.5 million people mainly of the Acholi ethnic group from larger communities such as Gulu and Kitgum, as well as the areas surrounding them, children bore an overwhelming weight not only as combatants, porters, cooks, and for girls it included sexual service, but also in carrying a stigma which has typically left them marginalized and overlooked as young adults today. Not unlike child soldiers in other countries who are undergoing the formal DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) process, many Ugandan, former child soldiers end up with no short or long term support upon re-entering civilian society. The region still faces post-conflict threats to the safety, security and well-being of children and families.

How is your idea unique?

By going deeply into areas of knowledge such as philosophy, anthropology, theology sociology and just plain common sense, we can see the reasons for forgiveness and reconciliation. The foundation for reconciliation has set two main criteria for its work: one on humanitarian, and the other politico cultural. The main objective of the foundation’s processes, from a humanitarian perspective, is to give victims of any offense a chance to share their story with other people. This is done within the eleven model framework. Sharing enables participants to construe the values and meanings of the fundamentally unpleasant and painful event. The politico cultural perspective defines ESPERE as a community space in which the offense can be deconstructed. We define “offense” in terms of ethics and rights: it is a break in social cohesion. As such, the consequent processes are an exercise in building a political culture and integration of this perspectives into cognitive and effective experiences.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

My name is Omony Geoffrey and I am the program director and coordinator for YOLRED. In this capacity, I am applying for the opportunity to work with IDEO on behalf of YOLRED. In 1995, I was abducted from a village now called Onyomtil in the Anaka sub-county Nwoya district. For one year, I remained in captivity but managed to escape in May, 1996 and was taken to the Gulu Support the Children Organization (GUSCO) Centre, for psychosocial support and rehabilitation. After leaving there, I was reintegrated back into my home community, but coping with everyday life after my experiences was incredibly difficult, especially without a formal education or the change to own my own land. Still, I was among the lucky few among former child combatants, as I was able to attend school with the Belgium support under the programme ”Sponsoring Children Uganda.” My studies were unfortunately interrupted, but I went on to form a youth group with my peers called ”Lurem for Progress Youth Association,” which gave us the space to share our concerns and personal struggles. This gathering led myself, and my YOLRED team member Charles, to the Goldin Institute from an introduction from Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), Interreligious Council of Uganda, and the African Council for Peace. I was trained in ”ESPERE” methodology, which my perspectives in ways I never expected. It allowed me to connect and grow my empathetic feelings toward other child victims of the conflict. Arigatou Intrnational and GNRC then took me back to school where I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Business Administration and Human Resources Management.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

12 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Geoffrey,

It is great to see all the work on your project proposal. I never received your user experience map. Did it go missing? Also, did you see the additional questions for this challenge (just log into your account and press the 'Edit Contribution' button at the top of your post and you should see them there)?

Also, as it is towards the end of the challenge, are there any specific types of organisations in terms of geography and location that you would like to connect with for this project or in general?

If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Photo of Geoffrey Omony
Team

Hello Kate
Thank you very much for this reminder. I had not seen the additional question but I will get there and see it. Also, I had not included the user experience map and I will just include today.
Yes Kate, there are quite a number of organizations which I would like to connect with them. For Instance Concern Caritas Counseling and Training Institute, Concern Parents Association and Bed ki Gen.

And in case of any questions, I will not hesitate to reach out to you. And again thank you very much for the unreserved efforts in helping the community in need.
Peace,
Geoffrey

Photo of shaun holleron
Team

hi geoffrey, i can only offer my hand in appreciation for what you are doing and are hoping to achieve,this has obviously been a part of your life and you want to help others affected by this cruel fate.i wish you all the best of luck, regards shaun holleron, yuchooze

Photo of Geoffrey Omony
Team

Thank you very much Shaun for the nice complement. It is always my wish and dream that the war affected communities in Northern Uganda be fully reintegrated into the community with improved livelihoods and excellent education for their children so that they can co-exist peacefully and in harmony.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Geoffrey and Team!

We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from the BridgeBuilder team and an external set of experts. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

One expert shared, “One of the proposal's greatest strengths is the strong relationship between the organization and the community.”

When thinking about desirability, feasibility and viability here’s what experts shared:
Experts shared:
• “The rationale, background, and contextual information is clear, but the proposal would be significantly strengthened by adding more specifics, especially around the key program activities, timeline, budget, outcomes/outputs, etc.”
• One question that came up was what makes this model different or more effective than other peace-building programs in the region?
• This is a very ambitious program, which is exciting, is there a way to narrow the scope and focus on 1 or 2 of your most important goals for the first few years?

When thinking about how your solution considers the end user experts shared:
• Yes this initiative is locally driven! Would love to better understand how this enrichment program is addressing specific community needs.

Thank you so much for sharing the important work you are doing!

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: http://ideo.to/DXld5g Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at bridgebuilder@ideo.com.

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Geoffrey Omony
Team

1. Outcome 1: Existing statutory and customary law institutions and mechanisms are promoted as effective in resolving land and other related conflicts fairly or justly.

Output 1: Target groups are aware of individual and communal land tenure management systems and available options and recourses for dispute resolution. The project will use a ESPERE approach to conduct sensitization among persons in LRA affected communities on land rights and existing conflict resolution mechanisms which will reach the 7,500 actors of the impacted vulnerable population. YOLRED and partners will work with statutory and customary leaders and utilize existing community structures such as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) to ensure a broader reach of messages (women’s land rights, importance of boundary demarcation and registration) by including the topics in the agenda for their regular meetings. Community level events such as weekly markets and village/parish meetings organized by the local councils will also be maximized to distribute sensitization materials that will augment primary ESPERE activities of bringing people together to dialogue around conflict issues. Special attention is also taken to ensure that women land rights are included in program activities and the information materials. Considering low literacy, materials produced for the education campaigns will be written in the local vernacular focused on the different demographic groups amongst the target beneficiaries and designed using creative means such as comics and illustrated primers and pictures/graphics where literacy levels are low.
Key Activities:
• Community Mobilization and sensitization
• Training farmer/VSLA groups members on the ESPERE model of reconciliation and peace building
• Dissemination of peace information (Radio talk shows and Radio spots/jingles)
• Support to sports and recreational activities (both in and out of school youth)
• Interfaith exchange visit
• Training Farmer/VSLA groups on Gender Equity and Diversity (GED)
• Support to referral of victims of GBV/victims of conflicts for specialized services

2. This model is different and more effective because it is a grassroots-based approach in its theory of change. The model further increases resilience in dealing with conflict and crises in a gender sensitive manner and through a nonviolent means.

3. Yes, the goals can be narrowed to attaining a peace society and enhancing livelihoods of former child combatants, children born in captivity, child mothers youth and the disadvantaged.

4. The enrichment program is based on the premise that if land related conflict is resolved in a peaceful manner through the use of either legal or customary mechanisms, and if target groups consisting of marginalized out of school youth, former combatants, poor women, widows, unmarried mothers and children headed households have increased their incomes and if the psychosocial well-being of community members who have experienced trauma due to war and gender based violence is improved, then people and communities in the targeted program areas would have developed resilience in dealing with conflicts and crises through constructive means.

During the ESPERE workshop, a widow who lost her husband in a brutal and painful attack that appeared to have been planned. Her husband had been a political leader in the community. She ran to seek help from the security personnel but all had gone for night offs. She could not get help from the neighbors either as they were all too frightened and afraid to rescue the situation. Upon returning to the house with some elders, she found her husband lying dead on the floor. Instead of her relatives showing sympathy and compassion, she was surprised that they were instead accusing her of conspiring with the killers. During the course of the investigation, some suspects testified against her in court. At the ESPERE workshop, she realized she would gain nothing by holding on to anger and she chose forgiveness remarking, “In my heart, I have in good faith forgiven everyone for the sake of peace and betterment of our community”

PS
I have made attachment of the implementation plan, budget, details of and picture of the woman whose life has changed because of ESPERE. I have also included the more detailed proposal through the mail becuse i tried include here but was not possible. ( I hope you will consider the improved proposal which i have sent through the openideo mail)

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Geoffrey,

Thank you for sharing your story and the great work you are doing.

I look forward to seeing your user journey for the young farmers and beneficiary feedback questions. If you have any questions at all, please tag me using ‘@‘ and ‘Kate Rushton’ or send me an email - krushton@ideo.com

What other funding sources are you considering for your proposed 36-month project?

Would you tell me more about the specific activities involved in the project and where they bridge peace and planet? Are you following a specific curriculum?

How will you recruit the 18,000 people to the project?

Are there organisations in Uganda or in your field of work that you would like to be connected to?

Photo of Geoffrey Omony
Team

We hope that our partners at the Goldin institute, Arigatou international and GNRC would support us in accomplishing the project.
Key activities under peace building
• Community mobilization and sensitization
• Training farmer/VSLA group members on ESPERE model of reconciliation and peace building
• Dissemination of peace information (radio talk shows and Radio spots/jingles)
• Interfaith exchange visit
• Training farmers/VSLA groups on Gender Equity and Diversity (GED)
• Support to sports and recreational activities (both in and out of school youth)
• Support to referral of victims of GBV/victims of conflicts for specialized services
Activities under Livelihoods
• Training of farmers/VSLA groups on basic principles and practices
• Training of farmer /VSLA groups on farming as a business(FAB)/market based production
• Support to farmers /VSLA group members with basic input based on identified enterprise
• Provision of toolkits to VSLA groups
• Support farmers /VSLA members in the area of agro- forestry
• Training farmers in post-harvest handling
• Provision of market information /market linkages
• Training farmers / VSLA groups in conflict resolution/peace building
Activities under Education
• Support bursaries to vulnerable children
• Training of teachers in identified areas of gaps
• Provision of instruction materials to selected schools
• Support to infrastructural development to identified model schools
• Promotion of agricultural best practices within schools
• Placement of students for non-formal training
• Post training support to non-formal students/provision of start -up kits
• Support to non-formal institutions in areas of identified gaps
• Follow up support supervision to students
• Training of instructors on the identified gaps
The project is based on the premise that if land conflict is resolved in a peaceful manner through the use of either legal or customary mechanisms , and if target groups consisting of marginalized out of school youth, former combatants, poor women, widows, unmarried mothers and child headed households have increased their income and if the psychological well-being of community members who have experienced trauma due to the and gender based violence is improved, then people and communities in the three project targeted districts of the Acholi Sub-region will have developed resilience in dealing with conflicts and crises through peaceful constructive means.
We will arrive at the figure of 18,000 in 36- month through farmer/VSLA group formation in Northern Uganda. We understand the figure is quite big but we can always start smart and expand especially on a yearly basis.
Yes, there are other local organization that we loved to be connected to.
Also Kate, right now am in Panama City attending a forum organized to end violence against children. I will immediately send you the user journey of the farmers.
Peace,
Geoffrey

Photo of Andrés Felipe
Team

Hi, Geoffrey
I would like to know a little more about the impact in the Planet area
Thank you for your contribution

Photo of Geoffrey Omony
Team

The over twenty year’s civil war in Uganda led by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) completely destroyed the socio-economic structures of the northern Uganda people. As one of the direct victim of this war, I understand how dangerous it is in relation to the planet in which we live. Our work in the planet area is reducing on the level of recurrent violence within the community which id indicated by high levels of bitterness, anger and hopelessness among people. These if not handled at the initial stage would lead to the emergence of another strife enabling the use of dangerous weapons that will effects on the planet. Instead, we are asking them (the community) to conserve the nature through tree planting.

Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Hi Geoffrey! Thank you for contributing to the Challenge!

You are doing such important work at the intersection of peace and planet I'd love to learn a little more about how you measure the impact of this work?

Don't forget to include a link to your website on your post!

Photo of Geoffrey Omony
Team

Initially, quite a number of child combatants and the community had an accumulated hatreds, anger, stigmatization, disillusionment, desire for vengeance and hopelessness. Today, through our work of peace building using a unique methodology of ESPERE, there has greatly been a reduction in the areas stigmatization, desire for vengeance and people though not in the entire region are living a meaningful life with increased agricultural production. Forgiveness, which was the hardest thing to do for most of the war victims, is becoming a routine in their lives. And I am happy this is happening as a result of the work we are doing.

The website link is: www.yolred.org