Raising heads above the clouds by Caleb Wakhungu

Caleb Wakhungu and the Mt Elgon Self-Help Community Project use narrative ideas and practices to spark and sustain local economic ‘development’ projects in rural Uganda. This video features a presentation by Caleb Wakhungu describing innovative work that links community work, therapy and development. This presentation was filmed at the recent 11th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, organised by Dulwich Centre, that took place in Adelaide, Australia from 6-8 March 2013.     This second video, produced by Dulwich Centre Foundation International, provides further information about the ground-breaking work of the Mt Elgon Self-Help Community Project.  
  More information See: www.mt-elgonproject.org Or click here for the publication ‘Raising heads above the clouds: the use of narrative practices to motivate social action and economic development’
Published on April 25, 2013

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Pierre Blanc-Sahnoun

    Hi my brother Caleb and everyone, I am so happy that you share the fantastic story of Mt Elgon Community. I have always wondered how come that people have decided to build their future together and raise their heads above the clouds… lots and lots of communities all around the world are confronted to very big issues of the same type or others and have you an idea of what is it that triggered your community to do this, what made it confident enough in its own skills and knowledges to tackle the issues?
    Peace to you, your family and your community, love,

  2. Troy Holland

    Dear Caleb, Susan and All,

    Thank you very much for sharing your inspiring projects, ideas and values. Caleb, when I met you at the International Conference I was struck by a sense of humility that I imagine makes many things possible.

    That is also the value that stays with me most from the sharing of your work: many things are possible. It reminded me to hold on to that belief when people are sharing with me their hopes and dreams. The work of the project on renewable energy particularly caught my interest. In my country, Australia, there are many resources and yet renewable energy is somehow often described as difficult and problematic. Your stories suggest to me that those barriers are somehow created and can be un-created.

    Your work also gives me an idea of how these barriers can be un-created. It is the value of self-development that your work privileges that I think can help overcome these barriers. I work in communities where many resources are allocated to deal with ‘problems’. However the resources come with many stipulations that limit the communities’ abilities to choose the action these resources are put towards. From what I observe the initiatives that communities carry out for themselves that tend to receive limited external support are still the ones that tend to be most effective. Your work will remind me to support these self-initiatives as much as I can.

    Thanks once more for sharing this project, best wishes to you and the communities you work with towards their hopes and dreams.

    Warm regards


  3. Susan Lord

    Hi Caleb,

    Thanks so much for your video presentation. As you know, I was lucky enough to hear this in person at the conference, but until now, have been unable to provide a full response. It has been wonderful to be able to listen again to all the details that I missed on first hearing, via this Dulwich video.

    I love your question you asked yourselves “How do we respond to all the challenges in ways that are honouring and respectful of the individual and their values”

    While I did hear that question in the first hearing, it makes so much more impact when able to hear of the big picture, putting together all your responses, in the many projects you have been working on- the Biogas digesters, the solar panels, and the childrens projects. So many people have been impacted by your work, and that of Michael White, Cheryl White and David Denborough.

    The image I am seeing, of the lives and identities of those you are assisting, is one of realistic hope – of seeing your dreams come into being – of agency and joy and confidence of all those involved. But especially of the young people, because they are the keepers of the future as I see it. It is with them, that the meanings of community will eventually rest and take shape for future generations.

    You and the elders are so vital and valuable, in holding and shaping your communal values; but it is the young people, who need to pick these up and run with them. The way that you all have managed that is awesome to me.

    My own stories confirm to me that this is no mean feat. One needs cooperation of the community, and to achieve that requires holding to a very clear and consistent view of personal values and goals over many years.

    You haven’t mentioned so much, the personal challenges that have perhaps created turbulence or obstacles to your goals. I am sure there were many such obstacles. I am wondering how you managed to get through these hard times?

    Certainly you have shown the challenges for the communities. The communal difficulties you have faced have reminded me of the difficulties I had of moving house from the one where my children spent their teenage years, and where much growth had to take place; to a downsized home, involving the challenging processes of letting my children go, to make their own mistakes and develop their own personal agency in keeping with their goals for their own lives. I too had to encourage a realistic hope for myself and them, which was confronting of unknown territory.

    Not only have you managed to provide realistic hope for so many children to traverse their milestones, but the projects seem to me to be the very vehicles which have allowed this personal journey to take place, as well as enabling the community.

    This confirms for me that learning starts from the ground up; of self care and survival- something I believe is very narrative in keeping with Foucault, in ‘Care of the Self as a Practice of Freedom.

    What I take away from your presentation is the very grounding experience of working from these very basic self-care practices upwards.

    I think these practices are far from easy, but the common sense human approach seems refreshingly straight forward (in theory)to me, and something I re-confirm for myself, every time I come up against such practices.

    Thankyou so much for your enlightening presentation.

    Susan Lord

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