by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon
“I have been a mediator for the past 15 years so the concept of reducing conflict through mediation appealed to me.” Phil Reynolds from the Annapolis Rotary Club took over from a fellow Rotarian as lead international club contact for the Uganda peace project about six months before it started. When he heard about the project and that someone new was needed, he volunteered right away: “The project was natural for me (…) I helped the United Nations Development Program set up an electoral assistance program, so the Uganda project, which focused on electoral hot spots, drew my attention”. With his years of experience in UN projects, Phil was able to refine the grant application and the activity plan.
The goals of the project are to create an early conflict warning system and mediation tools that can be used by local communities to facilitate conversations within youth groups and bring children from different tribal backgrounds together. The project will also help create a truth and reconciliation program initially in four of districts, with the possibility of an expansion later.
The project has had many successes thanks in part to the efforts of the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) in executing it. Phil was inspired by “the courageous and effective evaluation carried out by the UJCC on its own nine months into the project”. He was excited when results of the projects came back and there were encouraging examples of conflicts in the four pilot districts that had been resolved by the local project personnel. Phil hopes that in the future the peace project will be able to expand to other districts in Uganda.
There were of course challenges. For example the communication was not always as reliable as it should have been between the US and Uganda teams. Phil is convinced that “project plans must be specific and time-bound,” but he quickly adds “with a human face)”. And “as a French colleague once said, you must leave room for some unanticipated successes”.
Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).