Dina Buck (United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda - UOBDU): Dina’s undergraduate degrees include a BA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a BS in Environmental Policy and Assessment from Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University. In 2010, Dina served as an AP Peace Fellow with the Kampala-based World Peasants/Indigenous Organization (WPIO), now called the East and Central Africa Association for Indigenous Rights (ECAAIR), which advocates for Batwa rights in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the time of her 2011 fellowship, Dina was studying for her Master’s degree in International Human Rights at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at University of Denver, with concentrations in both sustainable development and international administration and law. After her fellowship Dina wrote: “This fellowship has helped me learn more about my capabilities and my handicaps. I also feel I understand better how to sustainably empower people, and work with them in a way that honors their dignity, intelligence, and capabilities.”


25 Aug

Well, I have been back in the US for a week and, already, I am planning to return to Uganda in late November for about 5 weeks. I feel “homesick” and miss it terribly. Funny how places that can drive us bananas, in so many ways, can also grow so large in our hearts.

My experience this summer was not without it’s frustrations and challenges but, looking at it from the vantage point of where I sit now (here in my home in Colorado), to say that this summer was eye-opening, rewarding, and incredibly-worth-it would be an understatement. Uganda, you are under my skin (and I mean that in only the best way).

Here is a video link to footage I took of some Batwa community members singing and dancing (sorry the resolution isn’t so great). This was taken from the Batwa Trail walk. The first song is one of sadness for the things they have lost. Then they merge into a goodbye song of celebration & hopes to meet again. Fitting, I think!

I’ve had some conversations with friends this summer about how to keep going when things can seem so overwhelmingly discouraging, especially when issues are deeply embedded & chronic. Ones like what the Pygmies of east and central Africa face. I personally often struggle with feelings of hopelessness. However, my father, who is quite an activist, has long been a source of encouragement for me. I thought I would share some of his his ideas on this. Below are some ideas he put together in a document titled “Why Try?”:

1) You may unknowingly be approaching a tipping point: Something that you are hammering on may be ready to topple without warning, or something you are trying to build may be ready to take off. Yours may be the final snowflake that starts an avalanche.

2) Even though you see no results now, you may be building a base – setting in motion something that will gather momentum and bear fruit down the road.

3) You may inspire others who are observing your efforts, and who may then take up your struggle and give it wings.

4) It feels good! It feels much better to be engaged and doing something, rather than to remain a passive, frustrated spectator, or to pretend it isn’t happening. To paraphrase an old saying, “It’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.”

5) Your work will almost certainly expand your own capabilities and wisdom, to make your more effective down the road.

And the most poignant one of all to me: We can’t guarantee success, but doing nothing guarantees we move closer to failure. Hopelessness, and inaction, and cynicism amount to victimhood. Don’t let yourself become a victim. Surprise them with your toughness, strong spirit, and perseverance. (Thanks, Dad!)

And thank you Freddy and Fred at ECAAIR; and Iain, Erin at The Advocacy Project, for this life changing opportunity. This summer has been a gift.

Here are some final photos, just because:


Posted Aug 25th, 2010

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