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16 August 2023 - News

Empowering Lives Through Play and Art: Yoweri's Journey with Save the Children

"Before I joined Save the Children, I had never been keen on children’s behaviors nor paying attention to their talks considering most of them being childish,"  confessed Yoweri.

In the heart of Nakivale settlement, Rubondo zone Kalitima Village, a story of transformation unfolds. Yoweri, a Congolese refugee, arrived in Uganda in 2006 with his family, seeking safety from the ravages of conflict and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In the year 2022, amidst his challenging stay, Yoweri's perspective shifted when he noticed something remarkable taking place within the community, thanks to the efforts of Save the Children.

He observed children engaging in play activities, guided by compassionate adults carefully selected by Save the Children.

This sight sparked an interest in Yoweri's heart, leading him to take a courageous step forward. Inspired by the positive impact he witnessed, Yoweri applied for the role of a facilitator within Save the Children's Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) program. Fortunately, he succeeded and thus began his remarkable journey.

Through rigorous training in the "Team Up" and "HEART" methodologies, Yoweri embarked on a path that would not only transform the lives of the children he engaged with but also his own.

"I never knew that engaging children in play can benefit them in other ways apart from having fun, and little did I know that arts can be used to make children communicate their concerns," Yoweri humbly admits.

With time Yoweri learned to recognize the silent struggles of children, often masked by their innocent smiles. The structured play activities, combined with artistic expression, revealed a profound truth: children, too, experience stress and anxiety.

Yoweri's eyes were opened to their struggles - the tears, the isolation, the unspoken fears. He understood that these internal battles if left unaddressed, could shape their behaviors, hinder their growth, and cloud their potential.

"I realized all those after the HEART training and during the engagements of children in structured play with use of art that children also experience stress sometimes evidenced with crying, and isolation among others," Yoweri said. 

Yoweri's role as a CFS facilitator reached beyond the confines of playtime. He discovered that children's behaviors could be a language, a powerful tool for communication. With an attentive ear, Yoweri discerned when children needed more than playful interactions - they needed support, care, and guidance.

For those with deeper concerns, Yoweri linked them to case workers who could offer tailored assistance. And the results were heartwarming. Some children returned to school, provided with scholastic materials by Save the Children. Those who were neglected found their voices, as Yoweri's interventions led to positive changes within their families.

"I have managed to identify children with issues, children who used to cry a lot, to be sad, fight started sharing their challenges in HEART sessions and we collectively found solutions." – Yoweri stated.

Yoweri's journey became one of personal transformation too. As he learned about the power of art and play, he discovered a means to regulate his own emotions. Confidence blossomed within him, and his skills in handling children flourished. The joy he witnessed on their faces as they experienced support mirrored the happiness he felt within.

Among the many art activities, Yoweri found a personal favorite - "things I look forward to."

This simple practice helped him set goals for himself, paving the way for personal growth and fulfillment. Yoweri's story is evidence of the profound impact Save the Children's approach can have on individuals, families, and communities.

As Yoweri reflects on his journey, he shares with a heart full of gratitude: "I am proud of what I have been able to learn and achieve because of having skills in using arts to support myself and the children through the use of art,"

With Save the Children's guidance, Yoweri has become a beacon of hope, proving that through art and play, lives can be transformed, one heart at a time.