April 20, 2011
One evening while studying in England, a young Ugandan man named Peter Nsubuga watched a BBC documentary in the home he was staying. The program was “Children of Africa.” Peter was no stranger to the scenes he watched, having grown up in the very conditions shown on the screen. He felt deeply moved by the film, so much so that he returned home “to give my heart”—he says—to help children and youth from his home village. Peter talked to local community leaders and officials about his desire to inspire, support, and promote youth engagement and the role of young people as leaders of positive social change. In 2007, he got just enough support to found Hope for Youth-Uganda and supply food, clothing and education to a small number of children.
In 2008, Peter learned of the training opportunity in the social therapeutic approach to learning, development and community building provided by the East Side Institute. He applied, I interviewed him (on Skype), and he arrived in NYC in October to begin the program’s first residency. During 2008-2009 (and three visits to NYC for the program’s residency periods), Peter advanced his vision to include therapeutic and cultural developmental activities. He thought that social therapy would greatly help build community and give emotional support to families, most of which have been fragmented by the death of one or both parents from AIDS. He also was eager to bring the All Stars Project performance-based development approach to the young people to help them grow.
So, over the next two years, Peter began educational and therapeutic groups for women and for the grandparents and other guardians of children orphaned by AIDS as well as “You Matter” support groups for girls. Hope for Youth-Uganda also built a school, installed a new water tank to insure safe drinking water; planted an orange grove, and acquired donated school supplies.
Last month, on the afternoon of March 26, Hope for Youth-Uganda held its first All Stars Talent Show. Peter told me that the show began in a large field, with children, many orphaned by AIDS, “telling stories—which were so emotional that many could not hold their tears back. Later we marched around the surrounding communities with the teens singing songs and ended in the sports field where they moved around to form a star.”
It thrills me that Peter and his organization are creating conditions for Ugandan youth to create their own cultural development. He joins the growing ranks of educational innovators—those who know the importance and value of in-school education in underdeveloped and developing societies but who, at the same time, recognize the transformative power of informal learning environments that engage and empower. Watch videos of Sugata Mitra and Charles Leadbeater to learn more.