Charity Uses Pathfinder to Empower Ugandan Youth
Ben Parkinson and The Butterfly Project use pen and paper roleplaying to teach creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving.
Roleplaying games like Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons can be accessorized with miniatures, grids, and other doodads, but all you really need to play is a few dice and some pens and paper. Working with children in Nigeria, Ben Parkinson realized that the minimal materials required for roleplaying made it an ideal game for remote villages and for disadvantaged youth in cities. "Children in slums have very little inspiring to do and I felt that these children I was beginning to get to know loved the creativity of monsters and were going to benefit from seeing themselves as heroes, when poverty eats away at confidence to be able to effect change," says Parkinson. Parkinson started a roleplaying group in Uganda in 2010, beginning with 4th Edition D&D and later switching to Pathfinder. Soon, one of the youth members of his roleplaying group took over as GM. Today, there are six GMs and about thirty youth participating.
"I am a fan of 4th Edition and the brightest kids enjoyed the complexity of the battles, though I felt that the game was not achieving my purpose of trying to stimulate creativity, teamwork and problem-solving, as the game was orientated more towards combat," says Parkinson on the Paizo blog. Parkinson began using the Kingmaker adventure path to further challenge his young leaders group. The Kingmaker adventure path puts adventurers in charge of developing and defending a new settlement. "Their enthusiasm inspired me to think more broadly and so I wondered whether we could work with some of our potential changemakers and social entrepreneurs, seeing whether we could run a more challenging thoughtful group, where they were making more human decisions, which might help them in their own development as leaders," says Parkinson. Each player took on responsibilities for the settlement, including mapmaking, record keeping, rationing, and city statistics. After an encounter with bandits where one bandit joined the players against the others, they began seeing adversaries as possible allies to improve their city.
"Kingmaker has been a backdrop, though, to an explosion in interest in roleplaying. We now have six GMs and perhaps 30 young people starting to participate in roleplaying here, so we are trying to figure out how to use what resources we have to develop an RPG timetable. Brian (a member of the young leaders group) is also running a group entirely of girls and he has taken them through "The Deadly Mine" and I hope he will start them on Pathfinder Society Organised Play." Parkinson's next project will be to take GMs into remote Northern Uganda, to continue to use the game to help build confidence, creativity, and problem-solving skills among the youth there.
The Butterfly Project works with youth in rural Ugandan villages and urban slums to help them become social entrepreneurs and affect positive change in their communities. The headquarters of the Butterfly Project is the Chrysalis Centre, which provides training for project members and also operates as a youth centre for the Acholi Quarter slum district in Kireka, home to some of the most disadvantaged children in Uganda. Each member of the Butterfly Project undertakes their own project, to gain leadership experience and apply practical problem-solving skills. The Butterfly Project is supported by the Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network, a UK-based charity.
Source: Paizo Blog
It's nice to see some positive work being done in Uganda. In place of aid from some organizations all we've seen is political funding to have gay people executed. The US evangelical church sees Uganda as an outpost from which it can put into practice it's troubled literal interpretations of the Bible.
I also worry that the prevalence of right wing evangelical christian agencies could also try and shut this scheme down if it gains notoriety; the same people who want put gay people to death are the same people who see role-playing games as "Witchcraft and Demon summoning".
Many seem less interested in actual help and more in their own agenda. For a troubled nation like Uganda this is a grave sin on the part of many international 'christian charities'.
Bravo, Ben Parkinson: You're not only doing good work, you're creating a generation of smart, capable people who know how to slay a dragon.