Project FOCUS, founded in 2006, is a grass-roots initiative of artists, writers, activists, young professionals, and students bound by a common purpose: to educate, inspire, and empower local communities in Southwestern Uganda and the United States. Our work in Uganda extends beyond material support and touches upon the human need to share and reflect on personal experiences with others. Through creative collaboration, personal narratives and exhibition, we hope to support community initiated programs, actively combat social apathy, and reveal the common humanity within two seemingly different worlds.
Project FOCUS began in the summer of 2006 when three students traveled to Uganda and were confronted with a country of beautiful complexity. Project FOCUS developed a photography project working with youth from the slums of Uganda's capital city, Kampala. Using donated cameras, youth were asked to take pictures of their everyday lives. The result was over one thousand thought-provoking images and a photography exhibit hosted in both Chicago and Kampala.
Throughout the second half of 2007, Project FOCUS returned to Uganda to work in the district of Lyantonde, a region heavily affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty. After spending time orienting themselves to the community, Project FOCUS conducted a comprehensive community assessment followed by four arts-based projects focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness through story-telling and the use of creative media.
Towards the end of 2007, Project FOCUS returned to the U.S. to organize and present the artwork created in Uganda. From 2007-2009, exhibitions have been hosted by galleries in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. Funds raised through these exhibitions will go towards supporting sustainable development projects proposed by the communities in which we work. During the exhibition period, a volunteer was sent back to Lyantonde to work with the community in shaping new development initiatives, foster a trusting partnership with local community-based-organizations, and advocate for other arts-based ventures in Uganda.
The first development initiative has been identified as the establishment of an Internet Cafe that will provide improved access to information and communication, nurture technical skills, and provide a space for the production of creative media projects.