Project visit to Uganda

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Jusuf and Major present their drawings. Photo: Amélie Gottier, 2021

Personal impressions from the refugee settlement Kiryandongo in Uganda

From November 21 to 24, 2021, Amélie Gottier, Program Officer at Horyzon, visited the Horyzon project "Together for Peace and Justice" in the refugee settlement Kiryandongo in Uganda. Horyzon has been involved there since April 2021. To bring you closer to the project and what it has to offer, we will report weekly in January and February on Amélie's impressions from her project visit to Uganda.

Kiryandongo covers an area of about 40 km², which is roughly the size of the canton of Basel-Stadt, and is the extension of the already existing village of Bweyale. Currently, about 70,000 refugees live there, most coming from South Sudan, from which many fled the civil war back in 2013. Upon arrival in the settlement, the refugees were given wood as building material and a piece of land. They built their houses on it and grow vegetables and grain to feed themselves.

Better academic performance thanks to art therapy

Among the refugees are many children and young people who have experienced traumatic events such as violence, rape, killings and escape. Some have no parents or only one parent left, and some live with other family members. The Horyzon project "Together for Peace and Justice" offers the young beneficiaries, among other things, psychological counseling and support as well as art therapy. Especially with the help of art therapy, e.g. drawing and painting, they can process their traumatic experiences and learn to classify their feelings.

Amélie visited a painting therapy session and spoke to two participants: "Jusuf and Major* are two of the more than 500 children who take part in painting therapy. They proudly show me their drawings, which represent their home in the settlement and their family. Today, at first glance, not much of the trauma is evident. It looked very different when they started painting therapy. Major painted how his house in South Sudan was burned to the ground, set on fire by rebels. He told me that he liked coming to painting therapy because he liked to draw and felt happy doing it. The therapists told me that the children and adolescents who attend the therapy show better concentration and therefore stronger academic performance, as well as being better integrated in the school classes."
(*Their real names are known to Horyzon.)