Staging Hope: Acts of Peace in Northern Uganda
"Staging Hope: Acts of Peace in Northern Uganda" is a documentary film that follows a team of actors, playwrights, and activists who use theater to help these children explore the traumatic events they have been through. Through dramatizing their stories, the teens are able to share their voice with the community and the world. The US actress and director Monique Edwards has participated in this great initiative. We made a short interview with her.
What was your motivation behind this effort and what is your role and contribution(s)?
My motivation? That's funny… I never really thought about that. I guess I just wanted to help. I was presented with this amazing opportunity to go to Uganda and work with these young people and I just couldn't turn it down. I knew, despite of any trepidation I may have had, that I had to go. I had volunteered with Voices in Harmony ( the creator of Staging Hope) for quite a while. So when they told me about this project, I thought it was a brilliant idea. I said yes before my brain could tell me no.
Basically, I was a facilitator/mentor. As a group, we went through a series of exercises and theater games to help develop a sense of unity. After that we were split into smaller groups to work on the different individual "plays". During that time I worked with my group to help them develop and perform their "play".
For me, this was a life altering experience. I was so moved by the brilliance of the human spirit. These young people had been through so much in their lives and yet their capacity to laugh, love and forgive was astounding. They accepted us so warmly and shared their stories and their lives with us. They trusted us and fully committed to being in the program. They each had to give up something to be there with us. It was amazing.
I was also struck by the concept of poverty while I was there. Sometimes poverty can be viewed as an identity but I found that they held it as a circumstance rather than an identity. That was very striking.
It's interesting… I think that there are some people who have that particular calling and then there are others who want to help and can raise awareness on a more personal level. I think if you have a "cause" that you're interested in, then you are already raising awareness. You are impacting your community i.e. friends, family and peers. We can sometimes get caught up with everything being on a grand scale and that's all well and good. But in actuality it only takes one.
My advice would be to find something that touches and/or moves you and do that thing. It's strange how opportunities will find you. I had no idea that I would ever end up in Africa doing a documentary. This evolved out of me volunteering in a program. I just signed up to be a mentor to a young girl but through a series of circumstances, I began co-leading the workshops and eventually ended up in Africa working with these wonderful people. It was an experience of a lifetime and I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to go. So knowing that as you raise your awareness you can't help raise the awareness of others. However, if you're looking to do it on a larger scale, I would recommend creating a solid mission statement and find people that are willing to be aligned with that and go for it! There are some great models out there to look at for help so you don't have to reinvent the whole wheel.
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