Innovative projects for refugees, former child soldiers, and host communities in northern Uganda
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Jan 2012 11

Fired up! Reflections from my trip to our new projects “where no NGO has been before”

Posted in Featured, News

What an inspiring experience. I was lucky to have spent my holiday break in Uganda, and inspiring is the first word I’d use to describe what I saw. (For a full slideshow of photos, click here).

I slept on the remote Uganda-South Sudan border in a tiny $6 a night hotel called “By God’s Grace” to see the new projects that we are setting up, and the communities there were amazing.

It’s like going back in time visiting these remote areas, where people were some of the hardest hit by the war.

“Almost everyone here was abducted by the rebels at one time or another,” recounted Richard, 20. “The rebels used to come here all the time, because this was on their way to their base in Sudan.”

Imagine that for a second – three-quarters of the people on your block were kidnapped at gunpoint from their homes. Incredible, the trauma that these people are living through.

The desperation on their faces told it all. “We drink water from a trench, so we all have worms,” said John, one of our new participants. “Many of us have turned to alcohol, because there is nothing to do. We don’t have seeds for farming, and we don’t have money to put our children in school.”

 

This is what the rest of northern Uganda was like five or ten years ago, but people’s resilience and many farming, small business, and aid projects have turned those communities around.

But no aid projects have ever been done with these communities, and people there are desperate – thirsty for work and positive projects after decades of war and destruction.

“No NGO [non-profit] has been here before. We are so happy that you are here. We want to farm, to start new businesses, to bring ourselves up,” as Francine, one of our new participants in rural Lamwo told us.

But I also witnessed a strong spirit. One local leader is giving us farming land for free for our projects, because he wanted the groups to succeed and earn an income. Children and youth told me about their dreams to become business leaders and politicians, and I saw some fantastic local dancing troupes among our groups.

As Dennis, a former child soldier tols us, “People still fight sometimes, because they used to do so with guns [when they were with the rebels]. We need to socialize with each other, so we can live better together. These projects can help us do that.”

I am incredibly grateful to our fantastic staff – Anna, Francis, Brianna, and Stella – for working out in these remote areas and spending many nights at the “By God’s Grace” hotel.

We are now starting a micro-finance project and an organic farming project in each of the new communities in January, February, and March, and will then talk to the groups about the projects they want to do most, such as animal husbandry or trauma counseling. We’re also trying to connect the one group to an NGO that builds wells, so that they can get clean drinking water. Come join us in our quest.

The “By God’s Grace” hotel:

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