31st March 2015 – Meeting the research team

Today saw the launch of the research project in Lira. It was a big day and the gravity of the occasion certainly impacted on my sleep. That and the cockerel that started its morning alarm call at 5am… Rosco and myself had a 7.30am rendezvous to go for a morning run. This provided a good opportunity to take in some of the area that surrounds the hotel where we are staying. The brewery of the Nile Beer Company brewery is located not too far away – temptingly close for someone who has been off alcohol for lent! Still, only a few more days to go… We were joined by Richard and Katja for a filling breakfast and then made our way to the hall for the commencement of the welcome/orientation day that we had organized for the research team. Fr Ponsiano and Dr Rosco had done a great job of gathering the team together. As had been requested there were 12 interviewers (6 males and 6 females) who were aged between 24 and 28 years of age. We were also joined by Elizabeth Amongi and Patrick Komatec who are acting in the role of supervisors on the project.   It turned out to be a rewarding and enriching day. We had structured the day to provide opportunities for the group to get to know each other, to bond as a group, to reflect on the vision and aims of the research, and to commence some training relating to the procedure for the research project. Richard, Katja, Fr Ponsiano and Rosco all contributed greatly to bringing energy and direction to the proceedings. As is customary for events of this type in Uganda, we commenced proceedings with a prayer and a song. This helped to set a tone of togetherness to the day. Richard was gracious enough to play the tin whistle that he had brought from the UK as part of our welcome to the group. His playing of ‘Peggy Gordon’ (an old Scottish tune) even prompted me to sing to the group. My first solo public performance!   There were important opportunities to garner from the group why they felt that this research was potentially of value to people in the Lira region. It was sobering to hear the members of the team highlight the scale of the difficulties that people living in the Lira region experience. It is clear that the conflict involving the Lord’s Resistance Army and Government forces that ended in 2006 still exerts a significant impact on people here. This ranges from the sense of dislocation that displaced populations struggle with (even when returning to their place of origin), the young people who lost their parents during the conflict, older people who lost their off-spring as a consequence of the conflict, the substance use problems experienced by the ‘lost generation’ of disaffected youth whose futures were thwarted by the conflict, and large numbers of women who were affected by sexual and gendered-based violence. These stories only served to deepen the resolve of the group to understand the impact of these issues and develop contextually-specific approaches for addressing these difficulties.   Throughout the day we provided opportunities for the attendees to express themselves in the local Lango language. A key word that very much resonated with the events of today was ‘Gen’ which means ‘Trust’. We are all acutely aware of the trust that people have to have in themselves, each other and the research process for projects such as this to come together and be completed. There is potential for uncertainty in terms of how well, or not, the methodology we are using might bear fruit in this context. Although, the DIME (Diagnosis, Implementation, Methodology and Evaluation) approach was developed by work that was led by Prof Paul Bolton (John Hopkins University) and colleagues in field trials that was completed in part in Uganda, this is the first time that this research team has engaged with this particular methodology. This approach is intended to elicit local language expressions of problems that people experience, tasks that they frequently complete, sources of support they access locally, and the way that these sources of support conceptualize the difficulties. We are embarking on this adventure together, determining what insights it can generate to help empower local people to tailor forms of psychosocial support that will be sensitive to the context in which people live in Lira.   It was great to have Richard’s input on the important role that the interplay between the two main languages used in the research group (i.e. English and Lango) will potentially have on the process that we are undertaking. It has been great to chat with him about the methodology we are using and how it makes allowances for this interplay in important ways, whilst perhaps also introducing a certain degree of rigidity to these issues also e.g. stipulating that the process of translation should only occur at the very end of the process. Some of the research assistants raised the possibility that some of the participants might actually be more keen to report the problems that they face in the English language than in Lango… It will be interesting to track this in the coming days. Richard has got great use out of his Lango dictionary so far on this trip, and has been very keen to engage with the team in Lango if and when he can. I have been trying out some words and phrases too – the team have been very patient and forgiving of our attempts.   After the close of a busy and hot day’s work at 4.30pm, Rosco, Katja, Richard and I made the 30-minute walk from the hotel into Lira city centre. It was great to immerse ourselves in the sights, sounds and smells of the vibrant busyness of the city streets. Lira has the feel of a big town, there are few buildings higher than two stories and the streets are busy with people young and old, going about their business by foot, bicycle, motorbike or car. There are many street-side stalls selling all manner of goods including fresh (i.e. live) chickens, shoes, tyres, mobile phone top-ups. As you walk along the streets you are bombarded by music blurring from large stereo-speakers, and buffeted by passing engine smoke and dust being blown up from the streets. Small, and skinny cows also wander along the roadsides trying to stay clear of the traffic.   Katja is keeping a video-diary of our trip, so this evening she recorded some reflections that we each had about how the work is progessing and the multilingual aspects of the research. And now, it is time for bed once more. It seems hard to believe that we have only been in Lira for a day – Kampala seems like a long time ago!

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