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Changing Ombasi One Artist at a Time

 

Seen through the backdrop of a small forest, the border town between Congo and South Sudan sits the growing town of Ombasi.

 

During the 21-year civil war, the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) had a camp in Ombasi attracting thousands of people to it’s confines for protection. This created a diverse community with over 36 tribes represented and a population of about 8,000.

Since 2005, community members in Ombasi have been supported by CAPOR (Capacity Building for Post-Conflict and Reintegration), a project of AAH
South Sudan to cultivate peaceful co-existence through use of entertainment for education.

Martin Lokolo, co-founder of Dynamic Community Education for Transformation (Dceft) in Ombasi says the support they have received from CAPOR is irreplaceable.

AAH CAPOR consistently facilitates trainings to grow their particular skill sets including drawing classes for the artists and drama seminars for the actors. They also work hand-in-hand with team members on a regular basis to ensure the projects being presented are viable to the community.



“CAPOR has built our capacity and skills in drama and art. They help with monitoring and evaluations. What they give us is helping to sustain us,” said Lokolo.

The group has 15 active members and 136 supporting partners in the surrounding areas. Although mobilizing volunteers is a challenge, the group continues to produce quality work.

Decft works in two major areas in the community. One is by creating awareness on issues affecting the community through various dramas, puppet shows, creative dances, radio broadcasts, and posters.

Through interacting with local authorities, health clinics and education centers the group is able to assess issues that are an up and coming trend.

“If I just go to the market people won’t get the time to listen to what I say. But a drama they won’t forget and will be learning as well as entertained,” said Lokolo.

Posters are also extremely beneficial to the community since they hold a lasting impact and can also be understood by those who can’t read.

They do several performances a month and receive $30 for each one that is then divided among group members. CAPOR also assists in printing materials, transportation, technical support and trains team members information dissemination approaches to influence community behavior change.

“Changes come gradually but they have been possible,” Lokolo said. “People used to drink so much but when we came with our dramas people have started to change… we are like a mirror, you can see yourself in what we act,”

Decft’s second major outreach is in the form of a non-government nursery school started last year. All of the teachers are volunteers from the community and the school fees go directly to food, books, and supplies for the students.

Remo Kennedy, principle of the Dynamic Nursery and Primary Schools said it became very obvious that the students in surrounding schools weren’t receiving the attention they needed.

“We had to start the nursery school to improve education at the village level,” Kennedy said.

The school currently has 68 students in nursery and first grade. As the students continue to age the school will keep adding higher classes. Even by first grade the students are starting to speak English unlike their age mates in surrounding towns.

“In the nursery school the children learn very fast and better than other schools Because the numbers are less and so there is more attention given to each pupil. There’s a great difference.” One parent said. “Tomorrow these children will be the future.”

Decft’s work constantly face challenges. Both team members and students have to travel long distances often on foot. There is no power due to high costs of fuel for generators. So even though team members have laptops, they are often not able to use them in their work.

However, they are still determined to fight for change that they want to see in their community. “We want to pass on information that solves community problems. To wake them up to the reality… we are fighting for development. If people aren’t aware they won’t change,” said a confident Lokolo.

 

Inspiring story ahead of the World Refugee day.