Saturday, August 29, 2009

DROUGHT HITS LYANTONDE: Prince Primary Students Affected

Lyantonde district lies in the geographical Ankole – Masaka cattle corridor; a dry zone with savanna grass lands, thorny acacia shrubs and many semi arid zones. The district is usually hit by severe dry spell between June and September. The average annual rainfall is about 750mm to 1000mm and the annual maximum temperature is about 29 degrees centigrade. There has been a drastic increase in temperature in the district leading to severe drought, which is attributed to encroachment on fragile ecosystems of wetlands, bush burning and deforestation. Drought has also led to drying up of open water sources and over 70% of boreholes.

The district has two rain seasons; the 1st runs from March to May and the 2nd from August to November. At the beginning of this years 1st planting season, local community-based organization ICOD distributed free planting seeds to vulnerable households, Prince Primary School and three farmers groups to build their capacity to produce enough food for their communities and sustain themselves. However due to severe drought, all beneficiaries lost their crops making them more vulnerable. The most affected are child headed households, orphans families and Prince Primary students, many of which come from extremely vulnerable situations. Local government records indicate that over 95% of rural farmers also lost their crops to drought.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Look. Watch. Listen. - LA Exhibit Update

A Creative Collaboration of Art and Community

Host: Phantom Galleries L.A.
Location: Long Beach, CA
Date: July 18-24th

Exhibiting in the tabula rasa of Southern California, Project FOCUS embarked on an evolutionary tour that began with a 4 day journey across the united states and a plan to create an experiential multi-media art exhibition that provided the audience member with a lens from which to view Prince Primary School and its surrounding community. Upon reaching our destination, we realized that we had our work cut out for us. 5000 square feet of gallery space stared down at us while a sort of sinusoidal array of emotions rushed through our veins. Humbled and anxious, we forged through with the help of Liza Simone at Phantom Galleries L.A. and many others, creating an impressive exhibit. The 7 day show embodied progress and offered us the opportunity to solidify a presence in Long Beach.

While short on resources, we were able to connect to several community members and inspire productive conversations. A generous amount of people at the show have expressed interest in a Los Angeles based Project FOCUS where we will be able to pool new energy and resources. We found that when it comes to work that is critical of injustice; people (the community) tend to engage the show on an intimate level. Even though we are addressing serious issues and attempting to combat social apathy, it was important to "seduce" the audience in a formally aesthetic way. This was a successful moment for us; the exhibit was nothing short of stunning and felicitous for the evolution of Project FOCUS.

Much love to those who attended the event and especially those that volunteered their time and resources to make this a successful show. 100% of the money raised throughout the exhibition did go toward the development of Prince Primary School.

A special thank you to Deborah Diesel at Sepulveda Building Materials for hooking us up with a pallet of bricks for the duration of our show, and Winter Byington at Apple for donating ipods for the audio installation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back from the farm with a lot of homework to do....

After leaving a utopia like Quail Springs, settling back into a city like Chicago will have its challenges, but what I took with me most from the 4 weeks worth of workshops was that the folks there are more committed to people, than any dogma or movement philosophy.

I am having troubled mustering up the words to explain the whole experience. I learned more in a month then in the rest of my days combined about nature and its intricate and intuitive intelligence. I learned (even just for a moment) to actually open up and see what was happening around me, and I did a shitload of dishes.

I did self-evaluations, community development project presentations, and conflict resolutions exercises. I designed a music and yoga studio for the desert with passive air-conditioning that was shaped like a banjo, and I made what I am sure will be lifelong allies. I'm certain that many of the principles of permaculture will benefit the work of Project Focus and the work in Project Focus.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicago Global Donors Network Profile

The Chicago Global Donors Network, an organization founded with a mission to increase knowledge about and resources directed toward international philanthropy and to deepen its impact, has highlighted Project FOCUS in a Donor Profile.

"Our vision is to build an ever-expanding, vibrant network of institutions and individuals who believe that an inter-connected, equitable world is in the best interest of all humankind. Towards that end, CGDN seeks to create a community of giving that builds upon the knowledge and resources of donors who are young and old, beginning and experienced, rich or poor, US- or foreign born alike. Our common purpose is to work together to build a culture of giving in order to improve the quality and condition of human life."

We are happy to be a part of that community!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reflections by Rhea

In three words, Project FOCUS’ mission is to Educate, Inspire, and Empower. But when I sit back, exhale, and really think about our organization, one word stands out the most: Community.

That is what drew me to Project FOCUS, it is what keeps me inspired, and it is what makes me proud to be part of this group of people.

Everything that we do is with communities, not for communities. Everything we do is with the intention of empowering people to create their own change, both in the United States and in Uganda. We work to build sustainable relationships that lead to sustainable projects.

Too often communities are lost within the grand scheme of international development. Organizations forget that the people who are the most capable of developing long term, sustainable solutions are the people who actually live in the communities themselves. They forget that U.S. solutions cannot be applied to Ugandan problems. They forget that endless grant money, a bottomless pit of inspired volunteers, and even the best intentions are pointless without community involvement.

We are different, and that is what I love about Project FOCUS; our relationship building, meaningful conversations, honest friendships, community partnerships, equal collaboration, and long term solutions.

Project FOCUS is not always the most efficient organization. We do not have the most experience, and we certainly do not have the most funding.

But what inspires me about this group is the process we choose to follow. The intentional, well thought out, endlessly discussed decisions that are always made with the Ugandan community at the forefront of our minds.

What inspires me is the people within the communities that we support and are supported by. Inspired, visionary individuals throughout two countries who are actively looking for ways to shape their lives, to come together and change systems bigger than themselves. To change mentalities; to impact their communities; to create their futures.