Social Artists Bring Youth Empowerment to Uganda

“Young people in Uganda face a lot of challenges,” says Cyrus Kwalya, a facilitator and youth worker from the region. “After the violence and war that we have experienced in recent years, we are left with a lack of access to education, leaving many young people unable to read or write.”

“For those who are able to get to school, I feel that our system doesn’t create free thinkers. Our youth are only taught to seek success by becoming doctors, engineers or lawyers. That’s great on the one hand, but it doesn’t provide enough options and it doesn’t open up young people’s eyes to the wealth of opportunities they have in the world.”

Earlier this year Cyrus was part of a team of people who traveled to the Hope North facility in the troubled northern region of Uganda, an area which has suffered some of the worst violence and displacement as a result of the long civil war in the country. The group came together to facilitate at a youth camp for the young victims.

“I was amazed by the change I saw in the young people who attended the camp,” says Cyrus. “When they arrived, many of them were very shy and some of them were really reluctant to speak at all. In a matter of days these young people seemed to totally transform. I was completely blown away.”

Along with 29 other facilitators, Cyrus arrived at the camp four days before the youth in order to participate in training and preparations led by PYE co-founder Charlie Murphy and staff from our Ugandan partner youth organization, InMovement.

“Charlie is a great facilitator,” says Cyrus. “He takes time to talk to everyone in the camp and engage personally with them. In the few days before the youth arrived, Charlie really helped us to come together as a community and to be a united group. I think that was essential to the successful running of the camp.”

“I’ve been working in the creative industries for quite a while now. I’ve been lucky to work with really interesting and creative people so I understand the potential of art and creativity to transform people’s lives. Nevertheless, I was really surprised at how powerful this camp was. I’d never witnessed this transformational power in such a profound way and in such a short space of time.”

Cyrus was particularly impressed with the way in which the PYE model created a strong community. “I learned that it’s possible to move from meeting people for the first time to talking openly with them and feeling like they are part of your extended family in just a matter of days. The camp taught me so much about the power love. We shared things that we wouldn’t normally discuss and it really brought us all together. I learned that when you feel supported and cared for you can become extremely creative and open to new things.”

“I would really like to thank PYE for coming up with this wonderful program. You have given these young people an experience that has raised their consciousness. It will stay with them throughout their lives. I would love to see this work being made available to youth around the world. I think it can really make a profound difference for the next generation.”

And Cyrus has high hopes for this next generation “My biggest hope is that they will learn that they are responsible for their actions and for looking out for each other. I want them to understand they have so much potential and opportunity. They can change the world if they set their mind to it.”

For more information on social artist Cyrus Kwalya, visit his website

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