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WPDI builds a new Community Learning Center to support its youth-empowering program in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement of northern Uganda

Five months into the launch of our youth-empowering program in the Refugee Settlement of Kiryandongo, northern Uganda, WPDI just finished constructing a brand new Community Learning Center (CLC) that will come complete with computer rooms, classrooms, a library and sports fields, where young refugees and local youth can learn and practice skills for peace and sustainable development. Just opened today, hundreds of youth already registered to take courses in ICTs. The CLC will also host our Conflict Resolution, Literacy, Business Skills, Arts and Crafts and Reproductive Health trainings as well as “Cinema for Peace” we are already offering within the settlement. A soccer field has also been built for our “Peace Through Sports” program involving already 2 female, 2 male and 2 children teams.

The Center is a key addition to our program in the refugee settlement, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN), which we are developing in partnership with Western Union Foundation, as well as the collaboration of the Government of Uganda, in the context of its pro-refugee policies. It has also been fully furnished with 50 laptops and furniture generously donated by our long time partner Ericsson. 

A main objective of our work, which we also carry in Mexico and South Sudan, where we have established ten CLCs, is to help vulnerable communities, including in camps for displaced persons, on their path to peace and resilience by mobilizing education, training and sports to unlock the potential of young women and men to spark positive change.

In Forest Whitaker’s vision, such change requires young people to access technology, knowledge, information and communication so they can disseminate values, attitudes and behaviors conducive to dialogue and tolerance among their communities. Everywhere we have established them, CLCs quickly meet success and attract many youth willing to learn skills that they can apply in their lives or participate in peacebuilding activities, such as our popular activities combining sports or cinema with group dialogues on peace. They realize that the CLCs can be part of a better future for themselves and their communities, notably through the job opportunities that the courses on arts and crafts, ICTs and entrepreneurship can generate.

In Kiryandongo, the demand for the CLC turned out to be even more important than expected. While we had first planned to establish the CLC in existing buildings lent by the camp authorities (under the office of the Prime Minister), we eventually had to request a large vacant land to build a large facility. The building is barely finished but the course enrolment is already nearly complete. There is an enthusiasm that testifies that such centers are not solely about technology access: they allow community members to tap into the world’s entire collection of knowledge, to connect with others in their communities and around the world, and to participate in conversations as informed global citizens. They gather people around peace. They are community hubs.