Volunteering with WPDI to train young leaders in Uganda
A few times every year since 2012 I’ve had the opportunity to take a break from my usual responsibilities at Ericsson – where I currently serve as the site security manager for the company’s operations in Uganda and Rwanda – to do volunteer work with the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI).
My most recent stint with the WPDI was in September, when I spent three days in northern Uganda together with two other local Ericsson volunteers to carry out a refresher training for participants in the WPDI’s Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) program in the region.
WPDI – what, why and how
Founded in 2012 by UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace & Reconciliation Forest Whitaker, the purpose of the WPDI is to help young people who have lived through conflict and violence learn how to create positive change. Its YPN program provides comprehensive support to empower young women and men to become leaders who can foster safer and more productive communities in active conflict regions such as South Sudan as well as post-conflict regions like northern Uganda.
WPDI’s approach begins with training in mediation and conflict transformation before shifting focus to developing life skills and vocational skills in ICT and entrepreneurship. In the next stage, the youth receive mentoring support and seed funds to help them learn to develop and manage educational projects and small businesses tailored to meet the needs of their communities.
There are currently about 76 active WPDI-trained peacemakers in northern Uganda conducting peace-building activities both in local communities and in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement, which houses refugees from Sudan. Examples of the peacemakers’ activities in northern Uganda include teaching conflict resolution education classes in primary and secondary schools, and managing several local businesses, mostly in agriculture.
Ericsson’s role – providing ICT equipment and training
As WPDI’s technology partner, Ericsson provides ICT equipment and works together with local mobile operator (MTN Uganda) to enable connectivity and internet access for the network of computer-equipped Community Learning Centers (CLCs) that WPDI develops in remote areas. We also deliver comprehensive virtual and face-to-face education in ICT and professional skills, based on our Connect to Learn concept.
I consider myself very privileged to have had the opportunity to contribute to WPDI’s work in northern Uganda both on the ICT installation side (project management) and on the training side right from the beginning, back in 2012. When I first started training the participants early on many of them had never seen a computer before and didn’t have any digital skills to better their lives. It’s so amazing to see the progress since then – the degree to which the YPN participants have developed their digital skills and are using them to gather knowledge that is helping them have a positive impact on their communities.
The refresher training in September was very well received. With the support of material designed by Ericsson Academy, all 76 of the active YPN participants in Uganda have become proficient on their laptops, using a set of MS Office tools supported by Ericsson. They know how to blog, tweet, put together a presentation, write a business plan and create a budget. The levels of concentration, dedication and engagement during the refresher training were high, and the attendees asked many great questions. Every time I lead one of these training sessions I am struck by how good it feels to contribute, if only in a small way, to making the world a better place by sharing my knowledge and capabilities with young people who are so determined to learn and pass the benefits on to their communities.
To learn more about Ericsson’s work with WPDI, check out the WPDI page on our website.