Student Translating Twelve-Step Materials for Recovering Alcoholics in Africa

When Anna-Claire Daniels signed up for the Gulu Study and Service Abroad Program, she had no idea she would be embarking on a project that would touch so close to home.

A social work senior who will graduate in May, Daniels was one of nine UT students who went to northern Uganda for five weeks last summer. GSSAP is a study and service-learning program that allows students to earn academic credit while studying post-conflict peacebuilding in the town of Gulu, in northern Uganda.

Daniels returned to Uganda over winter break—on her own dime—to continue her work.

Daniels outside of the prison in Uganda.

Daniels outside of the prison in Uganda.

She has been working with PACTA, the Program for Awareness, Counseling, and Treatment of Alcoholism, and its efforts to help recovering addicts incarcerated in Gulu Prison. According to PACTA’s website, the World Health Organization ranks Uganda as having the world’s highest rate of alcohol consumption and abuse—a problem that was exacerbated by the region’s lengthy civil war.

Daniels, of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is herself a long-term recovering addict. She’s been clean for more than two years. Her experience has shown her how important a twelve-step program is for people who want to turn their lives around.

PACTA uses a program based on a twelve-step model to work with addicts and offer support for the addict’s family members. It also takes an alcohol and drug prevention program into local schools.

“After going to a couple of meetings and observing the program, the problem was very apparent to me,” Daniels said. “All of their materials were in English, and many of them don’t read English. It’s hard to participate if you can’t even read the materials.”

Daniels contacted the world headquarters of the twelve-step program and got permission to translate its 164-page workbook into Luo.

Daniels addressing a class of prisoners.

Daniels addressing a class of prisoners.

Last summer in Uganda, Daniels—who doesn’t speak Luo—convinced officials to allow a couple of English-speaking inmates who work with PACTA to assist her. Sitting in a prison office together, the inmates would hand write the translation and Daniels would type it into her laptop.

Daniels made arrangements with a computer specialist working at a local hotel to serve as their technology liaison to keep the progress going during the fall semester.

The inmates would translate a page. Prison officials would make an appointment to deliver their handwritten page to the hotel worker. The hotel worker would scan it and e-mail it to Daniels, back in Knoxville. Daniels would attempt to decipher the inmates’ handwriting and type it into her computer. She would email her typed page to the hotel worker. He would print it out and make an appointment with the prison worker to pick it up. The inmates would proofread it and correct the errors.

Needless to say, it was slow going.

Daniels saved money so she could return to Uganda over the winter break. She and her family also donated a laptop computer to the prison welfare officer to help improve the process. Still, Daniels estimates the translation work will take several more months.

“The time will be worth it. Gulu and the PACTA program have become big parts of my life. I really care about the people I’ve met there, and I want to do something that I know will help them and have a lasting effect on the area,” she said.

C O N T A C T :

Anna-Claire Daniels (865-292-1252, adanie15@utk.edu)

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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