African Community Teams Support (ACTS) is a charity organization that defends, rehabilitates and empowers victims of violence, marginalization and exploitation, helps them make peace and live harmoniously through formation of socio-economic community networks and teams. Beginning as a family effort, we worked to address the psychosocial misery of defiled, abused, and devastated youths and women (DADYs) with counseling and care, but realized that this alone was not enough. Major causes of female’s psychological misery and suffering in patriarchal societies relate to social attitudes, and their socio-economic power in communities. This includes being forced into marriage, forced to drop out of school, domestically battered or abandoned with children. Those separating from husbands, challenging parents' decisions or boldly facing repressive cultural tendencies have less if any, economic power to independently sustain themselves. Moreover, there exists a dire need for provision of foundation/nursery education/care, which the government doesn’t offer. Those joining government schools drop out due to lack of proper foundational care, household poverty and/or the above aforementioned problems.
By training and deploying restored DADYs, we address not only psychosocial restoration but also the skills dilemmas, gainful occupation and socio-economic empowerment. For instance, we initiated a community-led nursery school not only to solve a community need for nursery education, but also to occupy and empower restored DADYs. The parents and community support us by providing school necessities through cash contributions or tangible items. We acquired a sewing machine and four computers. We founded African Community Team Support to champion mobilization and steering of similar teams. Our interconnectedness of efforts (psychosocial health of crime victims, skills, employment and community transformation) is a unique innovation.
African Community Team Support - Mbale, Eastern Uganda, Africa
While foundational/nursery education is the responsibility of communities and parents in Uganda, there were no nursery schools in our villages, primarily due to lack of human and infrastructural resources. Many children only went to school when they were older and missed the kindergarten experience that their wealthier urban counterparts got. There were also many school dropouts, and youths and women who did not have the opportunity to contribute to society because of their circumstances. Counseling and rehabilitation efforts were unsatisfactory, providing no independence or opportunity to make use of the resourcefulness of the youths and women. We also determined that there were fertile soils and good climate to support crop production, which were not being utilized. These factors (no nursery schools, unharnessed human resource and crop production potential) provided the basis for the project, which if well planned and organized, could blossom and exist sustainably.
Firstly, we mobilised to discuss with fellow community members the need for socio-economic change, and consider available local resources (many youths, fertile land and water). We stimulated suggestions of initiatives. Many got involved, and we were on our way to beginning our initiative. However, we realized that to bring the DADYs whom we counselled and supported into the project, a mentoring or processing effort was necessary. Our goal is to make a continuous psychosocial health effort of holistically restoring DADYs, through periodic counseling and training; and establishing self-motivating community-supported initiatives to economically support and empower them.
In addition to our individualized counseling and care efforts for the DADYs, we mobilized for the formation of a community farmers’ association since this was the major source of livelihood; this effort also demonstrated to the community the benefits of working in teams. We counseled many DADYs and selected some for employment in community initiatives. We arranged comprehensive trainings for five of them to gain practical skills. We Initiated and now oversee operations of a nursery and primary school through a participatory approach. There were multiple talents and differences among DADYs and those we sought to work with. Therefore, we mobilized and coordinated the formation of ACTS to thematically operate in health, education, restorative justice and agricultural sectors (through clinics, schools, rehabilitation facilities and farms/stores respectively) with DADYs.
We evaluate our efforts by analyzing and/or looking at:
After successful rehabilitation and equipping, DADYs are employed in our community-led initiatives as partners. Since these initiatives are community-supported and self-sustaining, there is financial support through contributions made by those who go through them and get employed. The initiatives support it and are initiating others through the ACTS network of teams. Since community financial contribution was very difficult due to poverty and low philanthropy, initiatives to offer services (such as education and care for infants) from those who have been rehabilitated motivates them. Some payments are in form of commodities because most rural people find it hard to raise money to pay fees.
Four DADYs, who were psychosocially unhealthy, are now in productive careers as teachers of sixty (4-10 year olds) under our guidance. We are now able to use the once neglected persons to provide nursery care and education for village community children, who could not access it due to absence of such schools and human resources. The community members have been organized into a farmers’ association to improve their small scale farming efforts. It’s through these farming efforts that they are able to sustain their children in schools and even support the nursery school. Two DADYs are being trained in tailoring and computer operations respectively and we hope to occupy them in the computer and internet center proposed for opening in early 2011. There is thus general appreciation that young people and women are useful to the community if given a chance and this is a positive attitudinal change, our ultimate goal.
African Community Team Support's Website: http://afriteams.wordpress.com/