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Launching a new set of activities for refugees in the Kiryandongo settlement
Marking the launch of a new deployment of its activities in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement in northern Uganda, our CEO-Founder, Forest Whitaker, led two visits respectively to the future location of our services in the settlement and to our country office in Gulu.
The newly launched program of WPDI in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement will build on the expertise acquired by WPDI through the Youth Peacemaker Network program, which we currently implement in Mexico, South Sudan and Uganda, and through our programs for displaced people in the UN camp of Juba, South Sudan. The new program will benefit from the support of our new partner, the Western Union Foundation.
To assess the needs and aspirations of the young women and men, who are the majority of the population residing in the settlement, Forest Whitaker participated in a town hall style meeting with a group of youth who voiced their concerns and hopes. The most pressing issues revolved around access to quality education and vocational skills, gender equity and access to ICTs. Forest Whitaker pledged to do his best to help them respond to their challenges on their own terms. He received the support of the UN officials participating with him in the meeting, including the UN Resident Coordinator for Uganda, Ms Rosa Malango. In conclusion of the visit, Forest Whitaker visited the lot granted to WPDI to establish our premises within the settlement, which will include a Community Learning Center (CLC) to provide youth residents with access to vocational courses, computers, Internet connections and library services.
With a view to assessing the situation of WPDI's operation on the ground, Forest Whitaker visited the WPDI office of Gulu, from where the work of the organization in Uganda is coordinated and where WDPI established its first CLC in Uganda. He was joined by delegations of our partners, respectively UNESCO, and Education Above All. The Chairman of the Gulu District also took part in the visit.
After the planting ceremony of a tree of hope, Forest Whitaker met with students during an ICT class and expressed his excitement at seeing what had been accomplished since he had inaugurated the CLC three years ago.
"This place has a great meaning in my heart because my whole program started here," he said.
Former students shared their experiences of the trainings provided by WPDI and how transformative it had been for them and their families, notably for those who had found jobs based on the skills they had acquired. The Gulu District Chairman remarked that the WPDI office was more than a building with computers adding, "You are shaping the future of these young people and their communities."
In his capacities as CEO of WPDI and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, Forest Whitaker stressed the importance of having a strong presence on the ground. To him, such local anchoring is essential to succeed as an international organization that seeks to help local youth contribute to the well-being of their communities. With respect to the results achieved by the office in the past years, he expressed his deepest gratitude to the Gulu team for their tireless efforts and the pride they take in furthering the ideals of WPDI.