SPOTLIGHT: THE NACHAN PROJECT
By: Gina de la Chesnaye
The Nachan Project, founded by Gina de la Chesnaye, brings mindfulness-based practices to the women and children of the Karamojong tribe living in the Katwe slums of Kampala, Uganda as well as humanitarian aid, psycho-social support, public health advocacy and capacity strengthening. They also offer trauma informed trainings to social workers, street counselors and caregivers in East Africa. We asked Gina to share with us some of the photos of the people who have inspired her and their thoughts on LOVE, along with her own.
What was the inspiration to create The Nachan Project?
Well, honestly I think the women and I found each other. I had been invited by my friend and colleague, Allan Katteba, who is a local social worker to visit the slums and see for myself what was going on. After spending many days in the community Allan asked me to offer some basic practices for trauma and resiliency. After that, I couldn’t walk away. The women named themselves “Gina’s Women of Uganda Group” which was very sweet and I was very honored, but I asked them to please name the group after someone important to them in their community. They chose the name Nachan, which means “someone who relieves the suffering of others.” This organization is devoted to breaking cycles of suffering.
How do you stay inspired to continue this work?
I remind myself to get out of my own way. I had no one to protect me or help me when I was sexually abused as a child, but I did, and do have resources that include basic human rights, access to food, clothing and shelter as well as education and employment. The women have none of that. My meditation, yoga and martial arts practice has saved me again and again from intense pain, and that’s why I have dedicated the majority of my life to this work. These women have no resources, but they do have their bodies, the connection of their mind to their bodies, and to each other. This is the essence of practice and of sangha.
I also visit at least two to three times a year to continue training the staff, and to share practice with the women while also working on public health advocacy, and shooting a documentary of their lives.
The theme of this issue is LOVE, can you share with us what working with your Nachan Project community has taught you about love?
The women are my driving force. They are our sisters, mothers, daughters and grandmothers and I refuse for them to be forgotten or discarded. Love means seeing and being seen by each other, as well as ourselves, with respect and dignity.
Learn more: thenachanproject.org