On my second trip to Uganda, I had a chance to follow Benson Ocen, the founder of ILA, around for a few days to witness a group trauma counseling program in action. Benson and I began our friendship a few years prior when he helped us distribute clothes to some IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps that were sent over from Project Okello, a passionate group of college students who wanted to help Ugandans. He had already earned my respect, but this time he blew me away.
I boarded the back of his Boda-Boda (motorcycle-taxi) in the morning as we headed out to an IDP camp about 40 minutes away. When we got there, Benson’s team was huddled up for their morning meeting. This extraordinary group of counselors, who were all native Ugandans, lived in a given IDP camp for two weeks at a time. During those two weeks, they led trauma counseling. In different age groups, the classes ranged from dealing with negative memories to forgiveness to beginning to farm again.
As a college student majoring in education at the time, I was on the lookout for how they were going to teach. What I saw was a group of zealous, expert educators restoring hope to the broken. Each of the trauma counselors was incredible, but Benson outshone them all. People’s faces just lit up as Benson told stories and jokes to illustrate deep truths.
As this beautiful scene was taking place, I couldn’t shake the thought that they are better at this than me. Somehow I arrogantly assumed that Benson’s team needed me. Benson’s team didn’t need me. They needed my support. The way that the most people will be reached will be if I serveBenson’s team by supporting them.
Benson, as a Northern Ugandan, can reach people in ways that I couldn’t even if I lived in Uganda for the rest of my life. Benson and his team have all of the intangibles that it takes to be successful. They have heart, talent, leadership skills and vision. They are just lacking in the tangible dollars to get to the next level.
Benson’s vision will bring hope and empower the people of Northern Uganda. His organization is correctly named, ILA. I Live Again. He is helping people restore their lives that have been lost in 25 year-long war.
Let’s help Benson get there.