Today is World Refugee Day. A moment to reflect on some of the dire conditions faced at camps all around the world. In the New Vision newspaper the other day, I read that one IDP settlement in Northern Uganda had two wells available for 8700 people. In general, more advocacy should be pointed at the durable solution of integration into communities for refugees so that people will not be relegated to these separate conditions (which are often treated as falling outside the responsibility of nations). Last week after verbalizing some of the thoughts in my last blog to a highly esteemed authority in the field who is visiting RLP from Cairo, she referred me to her recently published book which critiques the UNHCR, entitled “Rights in Exile” by Barbara Harrell-Bond. It is a must read, a revealing look into when “good guys” turns bad.
Appropriately, this morning I was handed a project by the Legal Aid Department to work on RLP’s critique for a refugee bill being considered by parliamentarians for passage. Recommendations range from the right to interpreters (given the incredible variety of language spoken by refugees in Uganda) to important distinctions made in definitions. I am thrilled to be assisting in this capacity. I think the different department heads see my requests for more work as curious. But gladly give it to me after demonstrating some of the work I have already completed (and given their already limited resources). At the moment, I am assisting all three departments: research and advocacy, training and education, and legal aid.
After reviewing some of their materials, one of the biggest needs of RLP consists of a clearly delineated strategic plan for its future, which can be used to sell its story to funders. I am brainstorming to come up with alternative income generating ideas to buttress its fundraising efforts as well as some restructuring concepts to make the organization function more efficiently. A nice side project that I have volunteered myself for. Given the depth and amount of issues which fall under RLP’s mission (from conflict and IDPs to refugee settlements), I realize daily a host of new ways which would help to alleviate their already overflowing inboxes but change is slow to implement (which I find frustrating frequently). After a month without internet access at work, one begins to alter one’s work style.
80 meter swim, 30 km bike, 10 km run. This past weekend, I ran in a triathlon in Jinja (which is about 1-2 hours outside of Kampala) as a team with my travel buddy, another American girl. We were the first finishing women’s team, which pleased us but left us feeling as though there was room for improvement (re: the bike section). I have yet to spend a full weekend in Kampala. I thought my spontaneous trip to Kigali, Rwanda (appropriate given my work with refugees from there) which I took a couple of weeks ago was unusual but perhaps my modus operadi is actually more nomadic than expected. The weekend before this last, I went to Nairobi (13 hour bus rides) on a whim and miraculously ended up on safari in the stunning Masai Mara. I discovered that sitting a couple of feet from lions as they play in tall grass can result in a blasé attitude towards seeing giraffes and hippos. Thankfully, that kind of jaded outlook does not apply to my work at RLP, where I have been acquiring more and more responsibility.
After a few instances that have left me feeling quite heartbroken (I had one woman frantically waving her hand in my face), I have accepted the fact that Ugandans do not like having their pictures taken. Given my penchant of capturing everyday moments in the street, I have thus been obligated to take them surreptitiously, which frankly leaves me with numerous horribly framed pictures. Most of these have been sadly deleted. Perhaps I will have to come up with some creative alternatives (which may involve assuaging paranoia) or otherwise I will be relegated to taking pictures only of still life or animals.
Posted By Eun Ha Kim (Uganda)
Posted Jun 20th, 2005