This summer we had the opportunity to travel to Northern Uganda to visit several of our partners serving in a very traumatized region of the world. In Northern Uganda, 20 years of brutal war resulted in the internal displacement of some 2 million people. Pader was one of the most heavily impacted districts, with nearly 90% of the population forced into IDP camps. Extreme violence against the civilian population included the abduction of tens of thousands of children and adults. People also suffered intense overcrowding in the camps. With the collapse of farming as a livelihood, the area was almost universally reliant on food aid and other humanitarian assistance.
Today, the Lord’s Resistance Army has receded and people are moving forward to rebuild broken lives and communities. In Pader, ALARM offers hope to over 150 youth who attend the Pader Technical and Peacebuilding Center. This school was started by ALARM in 2010 to serve former child soldiers without formal education. In addition to carpentry, welding, mechanics, tailoring, catering and agriculture, the program spends a great deal of time on character development – forgiveness, reconciliation, love, acceptance, following Christ. Although the war ended in 2007, returnees have not been well received in their home communities. As Nelson, ALARM’s director, stated: “the heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.” There is a great need to reconcile with God, with nature, and with one another. After hearing many of the students’ personal stories of abuse, abduction, violence and loss, my nephew Jermaine stood and told his own story, leading to his passion to connect with children of war. He encouraged the students of Pader to keep working for a better future. “Youth are like arrows,” he explained; “if pointed in the right direction, we can fly and effect change.”
For more info, visit: http://alarm-inc.org/where_we_serve/uganda