IT TAKES A PROCESS TO RISE THE “HEADS
ABOVE THE CLOUDS”
Mt Elgon in
there has been increasing concern that the traditional social support
structures will be overwhelmed. Economic, social and environmental crises are
key concerns. The problems of poverty, conflict and disease combine to
threaten the stability of families and communities.
you move around the villages, the predominant stories are usually around how
the world has changed, how things are not easy now, families are becoming
increasingly difficult to sustain. There are increased cases of divorce and
separation and conflict within families.
conversations around these issues give birth to anger, frustration,
vulnerability, neglect, anguish, stigma and discrimination. Local people are
also facing depression, conflict and envy. And children are at risk of
have to find ways to raise our heads above these clouds to where our dreams
hope, joy, peace, comfort lie.
Mt. Elgon Self-Help Community Project has developed a wide range of approaches in working with individuals and groups.
Step 1: Sharing stories of pride and survival
It all starts with inviting the different groups of people to come together in groups to share stories around their skills and the initiatives that they are proud of in life. This process raises people’s hopes, acknowledges their skills and the knowledge that they have, with visible linkages to their values and history.
During the first part of the meeting we ask participants to share experiences. We particularly want to hear stories about what people are doing that they are proud about in relation to their lives, their family and their community. This has always caught the attention of many people, because they rarely get such an opportunity to share with
others the things that they have done in life, such as taking care of other siblings, initiation of income-generating projects and participation in leadership roles in the community.
Step 2: Outsider witness responses
In our meetings, we have community volunteers who give the feedback to people who have shared their stories. They often speak about what they have heard from the stories that caught their attention, what was most significant, why and how this affected them.
This is done to acknowledge individual, family and community contributions, a practice that has not been part of our culture and yet is very important. It has not been a part of our culture to give positive feedback to those who have done good things in the community.
All the good things about a person are read to others when the person is dead, which we think is a good practice == but done at the wrong time. We give our responses to individuals involved in various projects and activities which include;
Producing Solar Panels to provide light in rural Uganda.
Empowering rural Women with Income Generating Projects.
Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable children with formal Education.
Working with Children and Youth through clubs.
Provision of Shelter for Poor families.
Construction of Community Library.
We also response to stories of individual initiatives at family and community level
Step 3: Hopes and dreams
Having acknowledged the steps that each person has been taking and the initiatives they have been involved in, in order to survive, we take care to name the contributions that each person has been making. We then ask a further question: “What does this say about the dreams or hopes that you have for your future life?”
Participants then start to speak about their hopes and dreams for the future. These might be hopes for their own lives, or hopes for their families or community. These might include taking care of children, ensuring food security for the family, going back to school, building a better house, re-uniting with family members, initiating income generating projects and /or taking part in community work.
Step 4: The histories of people’s hopes and dreams
Once people start to speak about their dreams for the future, we want to learn about the histories of these dreams. Where did these dreams come from? Who passed them on? This is a very important part of the process of raising someone’s heads above the clouds”. We seek to make it possible for people to link their current actions and their future hopes and dreams to the legacies of those who have been before. We are living legacies of those who have passed away.
“The problems of the world are not due to bad people. They are due to good people who know the right thing to do, but they do not do it.”
Step 5: Call to action
Mt. Elgon Self-Help Community Project is more action oriented. We do not end at listening to people’s stories and dreams but inspire people to take action. We ask young people to come up with a particular assignment that will be the next step towards fulfilling their dreams. This can be done individually or in groups. It can be a small step or a large step.
And so, our entire approach is built around making it possible for young people to take action, and then ensuring that the action is sustainable. There are many ways in which we do this, including documentation.
Step 6: Documenting the call to action
Participants are asked to write down the commitment to action that they have made. If there is time, they often create a booklet around this particular theme. Each participant writes a small booklet explaining how they have overcome obstacles in the past, their dreams for the future, why this dream is important, where it has come from, and they describe the practical steps they will next put in place. Participants experience power over obstacles in our lives when we spend time writing these booklets which remind us of our strengths, skills and knowledge.
Step 7: Circulating the documentation and generating excitement
Documents that are created are then read aloud and shared amongst the group. And other participants and facilitators respond. These documents are also placed in our community library. People read these books and give comments and reflections back to those who have written them. These processes bring some excitement about what people have committed to.
This is one of our key tasks, to build audiences and excitement around people’s commitments. We seek to get people interested in their own histories, their own dreams, and their own actions.
This is one of the processes we use to raise heads above the clouds”. It involves eliciting people’s current initiatives and richly acknowledging the skills and values involved in these. It involves linking these skills and actions to hopes and dreams, and then tracing the social history of these dreams. This process of moving backwards and forwards across time gradually builds a collective momentum. Once it starts you cannot just stand by and watch! Everyone wants to get involved. It becomes possible to run without getting weary.
This approach has enabled us to remain influential in motivating and challenging individuals to use their skills, knowledge and resources that they have to create new ideas and businesses geared towards meeting their needs. In this way, we can run without getting weary.