Event media

You are here

Hope and healing for former child soldiers and orphans in Uganda

Robin Yamaguchi

“What beautiful books! I’ve never seen anything so pretty!” exclaimed Vicky, a student at Laroo Junior School in Gulu, Northern Uganda. Vicky is 12 and lives alone with her younger sister, with no relatives or parents to help them. Since having the opportunity to join the school, she has blossomed into the most earnest of students, so extremely grateful to have this chance to study and learn life-skills.

Young 4 year old Stephen was found by a soldier; he’d run frantically from the rebels early one morning as they ravaged his mud-hut village, screaming and killing. His whole village had been burned down, his young parents both killed, and the kind soldier took him home with him. That soldier has since died and Stephen is now 10, but his adopted mommy is caring for him as if he’s her own, despite the fact that she has many other mouths to feed, and is struggling alone. Stephen is a bright boy with a lot of potential and he was amazed seeing the boxes and boxes of beautiful books he was going to be able to enjoy and learn from.

After the terrible war under Idi Amin, the north of Uganda suffered another most dramatic war under the Lord’s Resistance Army for 21 years. Young teens were abducted from schools, forced brutally to become child soldiers and wives to the rebels. Thousands of young people were torn from their homes, villages were burned, 1.5 million people lived in Internally Displaced Refugee camps for the entire 21 years, and so many needed to start their lives again from scratch.

According to UNICEF, Uganda is the second youngest country in the world, with 58% of its population a shocking 15 years and under. Child-headed families abound, the average mother has 6.7 children, and the number of adults who presently are HIV+ coupled with the disproportionate number who die from malaria, cholera and accidents, means that that percentage of young people is growing exponentially.

Over the years Family Care Uganda has donated literally tons of goods to orphanages, brought tons of aid in the form of disaster relief during floods and drought. This has all been most needed and appreciated. However, we have decided to really face the need of the young people up north in our country in a tangible way, starting with a school where pupils have been receiving schooling full-time for just over 2 years in a temporary building. We have a 2 acre block of land, right across from one of the main teachers’ colleges and close to the main university for the whole north of the country, where we are planning on building a school. We believe that tthis situation will be an opportunity for healing for the individual children, many of whom were born to those child soldiers. We are also most concerned about bringing character-building into the regular curriculum to help move these young people who have grown up without parents and with so little love into a world where they can obtain healing, academic input, and begin to gain some direction for their lives.

This donation from Activated Ministries is incredibly helpful, as it’s exactly what we would have dreamed of to meet these pressing needs. We can’t express how very grateful we are for the books, Character Building curriculum materials, CDs and all. In the north of Uganda, English is rarely spoken, even though it’s officially the main language of the country. It’s wonderful to now have books that are specifically geared for children to learn reading in English, and will effectively address this need.

We have held some seminars teaching the teachers how to make best use of these excellent resources, and will continue to do so, since the methods teachers use throughout most of rural Africa tends to be simply copying the age-relevant text on the board for the children to copy. The result is that across the nation, children are able to copy English letters and words, but don’t understand even the minimum amount of the material taught, meaning they rarely score well in National exams at Grade 3 level where exams are held in English. Because of these books now being available we are confident that these 160 children who have come from abject poverty, from traumatic pasts, and who have been disadvantaged in almost every way, are actually going to be able to rise to the level of other children their level and gain a whole new lease on life