April 2011 Newsletter


Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations,...

(by Jamie Paolonetti)


I know this is lengthy but there is a lot of information and some key updates and need for your support so please read through and pass on to others who would be interested.


The story of Theatre versus Oppression and particularly our work with Kyangwali refugee settlement are encompassed by the quotation above. Our projects continue to grow, as does our support, and possibilities for the future are constantly developing. We are a very small charity organisation, surviving project to project and dependant upon the fundraising support and donations of our supporters. And we continue to grow and develop against all odds as it sometimes feels.


And so we are in April and I fear yet another New Year’s resolution of more regular newsletters has got off to a very bad start. I have spent much of the last three months in the USA and been trying to keep different projects in various locations going at the same time, and managing with the help and support of those who volunteer with TvO giving up so much of their time and effort to ensure that we keep growing.


We have various projects at the moment, many of which are a continuation of work begun last year. The domestic violence project has moved on and more training and prison workshops should be kicking off in the next few weeks tailored programmes of the ‘What Happened Next?’ project are being launched in 4 locations in the UK; new training programmes for the general public are taking place in June and July; the play based on domestic violence ‘Til Death do us Part’ opens in a few short weeks; a book on applied theatre will be published for October; and we are making preparations for ongoing work and a visit to Kyangwali.


There are some updates from the refugee camp that I would like to share and many have asked about Joseph and what has happened to him since graduating from the African Leadership Academy in June 2010.



-       The school building is complete except that shutters and doors have not been added and the floor is incomplete. The building is in use despite this and playing an active role in the society. However the money ran out before this could be completed and we are still trying to raise the necessary funds to complete this work. The building is a school, a community hall, a multipurpose and a meeting place easily accessed by the community for development meetings and gatherings. It brings unity and harmony to see the community sharing under the shade provided by TVO.

-       The Right to learn programme increased its membership in January with 4 more orphans being taken over. Right to Learn takes on the sponsorship of children in extremely needy situations providing them with food, clothing, healthcare, a home and education. This annual sponsorship ensures these children have an education through to the end of high school (a rare possibility in the camp) and opens up possibilities of the students going on to university, meaning a possibility of leaving the camp and gaining new opportunities or, as is more common, using that education to come back and work on improving life in the camp. In the words of Benson Wereje from the camp, ‘Orphans have benefited and right to learn has been a home to abandoned and orphaned children. It is weeping away the tears of widows hence increasing the life expectancy of the vulnerable people in the camp. Education is life here, it is possibility of a future of hope and education is a pillar of development.’

-       Unfortunately one sponsor had to withdraw through no fault of their own. It was an organisation sponsoring one of the children and they did not get final approval to go ahead with it. Unfortunately we had already notified the child that they would be a part of the programme and started them in the school so right now we are looking for a sponsor to pick this up so we do not have to withdraw the student from the school at the end of the semester. Please help us if you can.

-       The theatre group we established in 2010 continues to grow but is meeting with some difficulties due to lack of funding. This makes travel around the camp difficult if not impossible at times. We had also hoped to purchase t-shirts as a kind of uniform for the group (clothing is in small supply in the camp and a ‘uniform’ of sorts will also make legal movement around the camp easier for the refugees’. We are trying to raise money for this also. Below is a report from the manager of the theatre group, Benson Wereje.


We have made so much progress in Kyangwali but we still face many challenges. Theatre versus Oppression is in a very difficult situation. As a small charity we do not qualify for major grants or admin support and must find ways to support all our projects without this; yet our workload is much larger than would be expected from a small charity and our projects intense and diverse. My policy when I began this organisation was that we would never go looking for projects but would try to never turn down anyone who asked for our help. At that time I did not foresee that so many would ask for our support and help and we are all working as hard as possible to ensure that we never have to turn down a project but financially this is becoming harder and harder. But we have hope and as the saying goes - Man can live about forty days without food, about three days withou....


Finally an update on Joseph’s situation. I know that Joseph’s story has stolen the hearts of many and I have received many requests on updates about his situation. Joseph graduated in June 2010 giving a remarkable and moving speech that marked the day for all of us. He then returned to the camp to await news on his possibilities for future study and his dream of being accepted to a US college and pursue medicine.

Back in the camp Joseph returned to his teaching and organisational roles, helping others achieve an education and supporting the women and girls to be more independent and safer. He has continued this work relentlessly. Joseph did receive acceptance into an American college, two to be precise, but they did not offer a scholarship. As a refugee Joseph owns nothing but the clothes on his back, he has no funding whatsoever and so without a full scholarship university is impossible. With ALA we are continuing to search out possibilities and Joseph continues to hope and believe in his future possibilities although he has often had to struggle with his fears and disillusionment that his dream seems unattainable. However Joseph is a fighter and we are all sure that we will find a way. I can think of no one who deserves it more.


A final note - we are hoping to plan a dinner/auction in May in Cardiff (I still need to contact the restaurant but hopefully that will go ahead). Plus we have two three-day courses coming up both in Cardiff in June and July.


Thank you for your support.

Jennifer Hartley

Founder and director




Kyangwali theatre group update & progress by Benson Wereje

-There have been 8 big shows done by the theatre group done in different villages in the camp. There have been other more mini shows that are done at Coburwas during the practice.
-During the 16 days of activists, these are days where youth go around teaching the community especially about HIV/AIDS, the camp chair person invited the theatre group to be working with him in different villages.
-We have got testimonies from the community about the impact and changes the theatre has achieved in the lives of families. This was through community debate, Skits and Social talks.
-Some of the topics we have played about  (all a part of our lives in the camp) were poisoning, HIV/AIDS, family equality, drunkenness, prostitution among others.
-Some villages have gone ahead inviting the theatre group to come and perform in their places.
-Members have been attending weekly meetings, evaluations and rehearsals.
-Members were able to positively contribute and using their talents, time and resources like money for the betterment of the community and the group.
-Cooperation in acquiring instrument from churches, coburwas and buying of the fuel and other needs before the performance.
-Sensitization using a megaphone and using the videos arranged by members. etc

-Lack of microphone for better voice projection especially when people are many because it is hard to make them understand what players are saying.
-Transport is a very big challenge, taking a video screen 4 miles carrying it on our heads in case there is no bicycle was not very easy.
-Weather makes the roads impassable at times.

-Lack of uniform for the group.

Way forward:
We are planning to continue making personal contributions and encouraging members to keep working hard. We encourage everyone to take part since we are a community work and being involved in changing families in our environment.
We encourage every one to use his or her talent because some times it is one’s destiny.



How can you help?

-       sponsor a child on the Right to Learn programme

-       donations

-       fundraisers

-       spreading the word about what we do

-       buy our publications

-       moral support is needed as much as financial!



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