Innovative projects for refugees, former child soldiers, and host communities in northern Uganda
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Jan 2012 26

We turned onto a narrow, dusty track… Our first monthly donor’s visit to GRG’s projects

Posted in Featured, News

By Megnote Belayneh

My experience in Gulu was one of the most insightful, educational and moving experiences of my entire life. Not only did I get to experience
another country firsthand, but I also had the opportunity to learn about the beauty of reconciliation and forgiveness.

I have worked and volunteered in various NGO’s throughout my life. However, my personal experience with GRG was inspiring and refreshing to actually see a small NGO with huge and meaningful impact. I first met the GRG staff while they were preparing to conduct a site visit in Pawel, a small community north of Gulu where no NGO has ever worked.

We turned off the main road onto
a narrow, dusty track hidden in the thick scrub… we were greeted by a warm, lively
group of people dancing and chanting.

Shortly after driving north of Gulu, we turned off the main road onto a narrow dusty track hidden in the thick scrub. Bumping along the winding road it was merely impossible to imagine what lay beyond the undulating road. Once we arrived we were greeted by a warm, lively
group of people dancing and chanting. I was very humbled to see the mothers and people of all ages waiting to greet us. After the dancing and greeting ended we all gathered to sit under a huge tree. Before we started the meeting, the community representative gave a remark saying how grateful his community had been to receive GRG, as it was the first and only NGO that ever reached their community. Then, turn by the turn, members of the community started telling their story of the
war and how it has affected their lives and their loved ones.

In northern Uganda, children have been abducted by the rebel group the
Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during a ruthless war. The soldiers in the LRA fostered an environment of fear, to force loyalty among the children toward their commanders. Some of  the youth tell stories of being forced to brutally murder, even their own family members. Girls were taken as wives and slaves at young ages. The trauma of being raped compound the other abuses they suffer. Thousands have managed to escape and were able to rejoin their families and begin the slow process of healing, recovery and community reintegration.

GRG programs are particularly focused on helping the former child soldiers to reintegrate into the community by creating projects that will enable the youth to work as a team, contribute to the larger community, and become self-sufficient through village banking, brick making, and
farming.

Instead of simply feeling emotionally overwhelmed after hearing, seeing, and learning about the Pawel community’s many challenges, I felt inspired by this remarkable group of people in their own efforts to overcome the problems that they faced.

I also admired the help that they were extending to each other with the limited resources that they had and what they were able to accomplish within the extraordinary conditions that they lived. I was humbled with the professional dedication and hard work of the GRG staff.

My experience with GRG project was humbling and the educational value of the trip was enormous. I cannot even begin to use the right words to describe the impact this experience has had on my life. GRG team, I am truly thankful for this experience.

Indeed, reconciliation is a more organic transition to peace and the avoidance of future conflict.

One Comment

  1. Sandy Ojikutu says:

    To read about the challenges in Northern Uganda is one thing–and very powerful. To GO there and see for yourself indicates a very serious level of commitment. Your narrative is rich and impactful–clearly for you, and now for those of us who read your words.

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