Saturday, February 11, 2012

Peace-building in War Torn Northern Uganda: A Success Story

On a hot, dusty Saturday morning, I climbed into the front seat of an NGO 4x4, prepared for a bumpy ride. Together with my driver and translator, we set out for Acholibur, a small town in Northern Uganda located about an hour’s drive from my home in Pader. I was told I would be meeting with war-affected youth who had helped start a peace club in their community.

As we pulled up to the tall chain-linked fence surrounding the community center, twenty dirt-covered children left behind the car tires they were rolling and ran to the gate to see their visitors. My typical greetings ensued: young ones jumping up and down, chanting “mono, mono, mono” (the Luo word for “white person”), kneeling down to shake my hand, and begging for pictures when they saw my camera.

Inside the main building, fifteen youth waited to speak with me. They knew a foreigner was coming to listen to their stories, learn about the club, and share their messages of peace more widely. What I heard over the following hours were incredible stories about children’s experiences during war, and how youth can work together to accomplish amazing feats for peace.

The club began in 2007 when a group of former child soldiers came together to discuss how they could help others returning from Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) captivity. Since then, the Peace Club has grown in membership and purpose, from twenty girls and twenty boys at its start, to an informal community group that now serves more than 200 war-affected youth.

Members of the club donate their time to work in landowners’ gardens, tend livestock, keep bees, and raise seedlings. The Club uses these proceeds to help war-affected young people when emergency cases arise: when a child mother cannot pay for medicine for her baby or a war orphan lacks the means to pay the parental contribution component of primary education.

Leaders of the group have partnered with local NGOs to receive training in psychosocial counseling. There are now peers on hand to discuss issues affecting young people in Acholibur like HIV/AIDS, child abuse, and domestic violence. They have worked hard to learn about the resources available to them, and the club now serves as one of the main locations for youth to go for counseling and referrals.

The young people support one another because, in the words of one member, “without each other, we’d have nothing.”

The following posts are stories shared by Peace Club members about their experiences with war and how the Peace Club has changed their lives. The content deals with themes of violence that may be discomforting and not suitable for all audiences.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Danielle...I awoke early this morning and read all your stories with tears rolling down my cheeks. Just so unbelievably sad these young souls had to endure such horror. But to know they have formed a Peace Club and that their stories have crossed paths with yours....I am filled with hope. Thank you for telling the world and being a voice for peace. Keep living your vision! Love and hugs, Donna