Oyet’s village was attacked by LRA rebels. Unlike many others, Oyet survived the attack and found refuge in a nearby (IDP) camp. When he returned to his village, his life became marked by trauma and economic hardship.
Motivated to transform his community, Oyet joined the Yom Cwiny (meaning happiness) group, started by GRG, and became a trained peer counsellor in 2020. As one of 20 peer counsellors in his village, Oyet addresses addiction-related issues like poor parenting, marital violence, and child abuse. Oyet testifies that the psychosocial support introduced by GRG has had a transformative impact for his community.
Abducted by the LRA rebels at age 13, Betty was raped before getting her first period. She was forced to be a child soldier and sex slave to a commander for the next 9 years. She finally escaped but had to hide among dead bodies to conceal herself, further traumatizing her. “It haunts me to this day, and I’m still not able to conceive,” she told us.
Betty was on the verge of suicide when she joined a GRG trauma counselling project. “Becoming a counselor has given me perspective, and now I can relate to other people with the same trauma and help them. I’m also farming with the GRG group. We also sing and dance together. I’m getting used to seeing things from a different perspective.”
One day, when Alice was nine, she went to the well to get water for her family. Some men in uniform approached her. It was a full year before Alice set eyes on her parents again.
Forced to spend a year with the Lord’s Resistance Army, Alice witnessed the torture and killing of many abductees who tried to escape. She was ordered to walk up to 25 miles in a day, often eating only wild berries instead of meals. Once when Alice was too exhausted to walk, she was severely beaten with canes. Risking it all, she finally escaped with two other women.
After she returned home, Alice was rebuked by her peers as a “killer with the devil in her.” Alice recently joined a GRG farming project, and she already feels its benefit.
“I felt like a stranger, like an outsider. I had no one to talk to and nobody seemed to trust me, but now I am part of a group. I belong to a community who talks to me and respects me. GRG has relieved me from stress and helped me to put clothes on my baby’s back and food in my baby’s mouth.”
“I had no family left… Now GRG makes me feel accepted.”
– Stella, 25, GRG member in Anaka
Abducted from her family at age 11, Stella spent 8 horrifying years as a ‘wife’ to an LRA commander. Returning back home, she faced poverty and isolation. “I had no family left”, said Stella. Last year, she attended a GRG training, and, using her savings from GRG project, Stella set up a dress-making shop.
“The money I get helps me support my children. When the community come to my shop and buy my clothes, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel accepted.”
“I have a purpose.”
– Denis, 22, GRG project coordinator in Palaro
Denis spent five years as a combatant with the LRA but is now the coordinator of GRG’s projects in Palaro. He says that since joining, his life has improved with each passing day.
“I am building trust for people again. I can talk freely with people without thinking to myself that people fear me and want to take revenge on me. Being the coordinator, I have responsibilities, I have a purpose, and I feel that people are beginning to respect me.”
“This group has helped me cope with everyday life”
– Simon, 25, GRG member in Opit
Simon was forced to fight in the LRA for three years. When he returned from the bush, he discovered that his entire family had been killed in the conflict. Initially, Simon found it difficult to interact with others and commit to working on a regular basis. Now, Simon explains that GRG has helped him.
“When I first returned my mind was disturbed. This group has helped me to cope with everyday life, it has given me a purpose and a sense of belonging, something I hadn’t felt since I left the LRA.”
“Before, women like me weren’t allowed out of the house”
“I didn’t think brickmaking was a thing for women. But now, I realize that women can also make bricks. Before, women like me weren’t allowed out of the house. But now our husbands can allow [that], because the group is good and works well. They realize we’re not going out for trouble. With the money we made from the brickmaking, I paid for school fees for my daughter.”
– Esther, 29, GRG member in Olwal
Esther, one of GRG’s community member participants in Olwal, has felt the effects of GRG on her gender role. “I joined the GRG brickmaking group because they promoted unity”, said Esther.