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Forest Whitaker visits the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Uganda

Our CEO, Forest Whitaker visits the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda with our partner the Western Union Foundation to strengthen our programs for young refugees

On May 1, our CEO Forest Whitaker led a visit of the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda where the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), recently started a new branch of his flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) to empower young people from both the camp and the neighboring communities. Mr. Whitaker has been active in the region since 2006 and has recently expanded the YPN to refugees from South Sudan, based on the successes and lessons learned on our programs for young people in the protection of civilians camp for internally displaced people in Juba. The main partner of the program in Kiryandongo is the Western Union Foundation, who was represented during this visit by Mr. Jean Claude Farah, President of Global Payments.

The visit was joined as well by Mr. Johan Ryden, country manager of Ericsson in Uganda, and Ms. Rosa Malango, UN Resident Coordinator, who donated sports equipment to our soccer teams at the settlement. 

Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Farah interacted with the different beneficiaries of the program and received a warm welcome from the refugee communities as well as the host communities, who performed traditional dances in their honor.

In his address to the audience, Mr. Farah spoke of his personal history as a refugee, stressing that he had never given up on hope.

Forest Whitaker’s speech mainly addressed the refugee population, most of whom are from South Sudan, where he was a couple days prior to his visit. He expressed his sympathy at their trial and his admiration at their resilience capacity. He urged them to have faith in the future and sow the seeds of reconciliation in the perspective that their energies would be needed when their country eventually is at peace. He voiced his hope that the young refugees would take advantage of the program he had established in the camp. He also acknowledged the generosity of the Ugandan host community towards refugees and insisted that they were also welcome to participate in his youth leadership program. 

The visit concluded with a meeting of Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Farah at the Panyadoli secondary school in the settlement where 50 students have already been enrolled in our Conflict Resolution Education Program. Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Farah heard very moving testimonies from the students enrolled in the program. They expressed their gratitude and appreciation of such a needed initiative. They were aware of the importance of learning to live in harmony and peace with their fellow citizens and  to overcome their desire of violent revenge for what they and their families had been through during the conflict in South Sudan.

Under the YPN program at the Kiryandongo refugee settlement, WPDI seeks to help young refugees rebound and transform into community leaders who can work for the benefit of their peers and the refugee community at large through, laying the groung for lasting peace and sustainable development. 

At this stage, 46 young women and men have been selected to follow our Trainers of Trainees (ToTs) component and are receiving weekly courses in mediation and entrepreneurship. Another 100 youth attend trainings in entrepreneurship and arts and crafts. 50 students from the Panyadoli secondary school are following the Conflict Resolution Education program developed by WPDI for middle and high school students. More than 400 refugees attended the weekly sessions of our Cinema for Peace program, which consists of screenings movies focusing on peace issues followed by group discussions. WPDI’s Peace through Sports program, which harnesses the power of sports for peace, now has 5 teams, 2 for young women, 2 for young men and 1 for children. WPDI is also building a sports field and hopes to soon complete the construction of its Community Learning Center for which Ericsson will graciously provide all the IT equipment and MTN Foundation the connectivity.