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WALKING THE TALK: WPDI mobilizes former trainees from South Sudan in the training of a new cohort of peacemakers in the refugee camp in Uganda

WPDI organized an exceptional encounter this week at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Uganda, inviting Nandege Magdalena and Taban Oliver, two Trainers of Trainees (ToTs) from the program in the Eastern Equatoria State (EES) of South Sudan.  The cohort of young women and men, most refugees from South Sudan, prepared for their roles as ToTs in the settlement and neighboring communities.

Trainees were enthusiastic to exchange and learn from two experienced WPDI peacemakers. Namara Ali, a young man of 21, declared, “Bringing these fellow young ToTs from South Sudan is an encouragement for us in our ambition to making, keeping and building peace in our communities for the benefit of the whole world.”

Bringing two peacemakers from the EES program to Kiryandongo was a unique opportunity for trainees to interact directly with former WPDI trainees, now seasoned peacemakers and trainers. Magdalena and Taban started with WPDI in 2014 when the first full-fledged hub of the flagship program was launched, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN). The YPN serves vulnerable communities affected by chronic violence, be it armed conflict in South Sudan or gang wars in Mexico. The call-to-action by CEO/Founder Forest Whitaker is based on chronic forms of conflict hampering the capacity of communities for resilience and sustainable development, requiring social transformations based on a delicate mix of external interventions and endogenous initiatives.

To foster such change, WPDI mobilizes young women and men trained in conflict resolution, ICTs and entrepreneurship, in their growth as connected local leaders who can undertake activities conducive to peace and prosperity in their communities. With an ultimate goal to disseminate a culture of peace, an important role of the ToTs is to teach conflict resolution to a wide array of stakeholders. Taban and Magdalena have become experts, with Taban teaching conflict resolution in primary and secondary schools and Magdalena invited by the authorities of Torit to train officials.

For future ToTs of Kiryandongo, who started training in March with final exams in December, the three days proved extraordinary.  Magdalena and Taban provided exceptional instruction in test preparation and, de facto, served as the best role models for the aspiring peacemakers.

To some trainees, Magdalena’s and Taban’s talent could be assessed by their capacity to strengthen their group, composed of South Sudanese young refugees and Ugandan youth from neighboring communities. Commenting on the workshop, Uganda ToT Nabwile Rosemary, aged 21, noted the workshop helped to improve relations “between us, the host communities, and the TOTs from South Sudan. We are now able to communicate better with each other.’’

Drawing on experience, Magdalena and Taban provided advice to the future ToTs of Kiryandongo. For male trainees, Taban described he had, with his group, created an income-generating business on poultry and bee-keeping, stressing the business would not have survived without commitment to achieving success at all cost.

Addressing female ToTs, Magdalena's stimulating instruction included emphasis on the fortunate number of young women in the program, a contrast to her group which included only three girls. This was in part because insecurity was, and remained an important obstacle to, the freedom of women in South Sudan. Commenting on the business developed in her group – agriculture specializing in maize production – she emphasized the importance of accountability and transparency in the development of projects. Magdalena detailed accomplishments due to her participation in WPDI’s programs, including the training of officials and a mission to Dubai representing South Sudanese youth in January 2017.

At the closing of the workshop, Magdalena and Taban expressed confidence and promise in the cohort. “The youth are very active, friendly and interactive," Magdalena noted. "It has been a nice experience to be with them and encourage them to go to school, and spread the message of peace to the different communities of the settlement.” 

“The TOTs are knowledgeable and skillful, committed, lovely, encouraging and promising for the development of their communities,” Taban said. 

Echoing Magdalena’s and Taban’s appreciation, Mwaka Simon Peter, a 25-year- old trainee from South Sudan, said “I have personally gained a lot of from the facilitators from South Sudan because they have the knowledge and skills to deliver the content, and also because they are very confident and experienced.”

After this training, the future young leaders of Kiryandongo will continue preparing for final exams in December as part of the certification process as official WPDI peacemakers operating in the field.