This landlocked country in East Africa has a tropical climate and encompasses a rich array of wildlife, including the endangered mountain gorilla. The official national language is English, although other ethnic languages are spoken such as Arabic, Acholi, Swahili, and Bantu. Much of rural Uganda is plagued by poverty, with people subsisting on whatever they can grow on small plots of land or raise as cash crops, such as coffee and tea.
ChildVoice got its start in the Lukodi region of northern Uganda in 2006, in direct response to the atrocities perpetrated against children by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). At that time, more than 30,000 children had been abducted by the LRA and forced to become child soldiers. Today the wounds of war have begun to heal, but many young children and their families continue to struggle from the effects of trauma and poverty.
At the Lukome Center, we work to transform the lives of the most vulnerable adolescent girls who have been caught in the crosshairs of war and poverty. Our sanctuary village setting provides these girls and their children with a safe place in which to build a brighter future as they receive love, education, counseling, and vocational skills--all with the goal of having them reintegrate within their communities as self-sufficient leaders and valued income-earners.
Currently, Uganda is reeling from the influx of South Sudanese refugees pouring over its northern border to escape civil war. Resources in northern Uganda’s refugee camps are stretched to the limit, as nearly a million refugees tax the ability of local host communities to supply such basic needs as food, water, and healthcare. Our hope is to enter these camps and bring healing with our unique and proven approach to counseling and trauma care.
As the world’s newest nation—having seceded from the Republic of Sudan in 2011—South Sudan has seen more than its share of violence and disruption in the past few years. Our hope had been to launch a pilot program for boys in 2016 in the city of Yei, but those hopes were dashed as civil war and tribal conflict in the region spiraled out of control. The explosion of hostilities has forced almost two million people to flee for their lives across the border into Uganda and other neighboring countries, according to USAID.gov, leaving Yei virtually deserted by its residents.
In light of this increasingly dangerous security situation, we chose instead to bring some of South Sudan’s most vulnerable girls to the Lukome Center as students. Many have come from northern Uganda’s overcrowded refugee camps. Resources in these camps are stretched to the limit, as nearly a million South Sudanese have taxed the ability of local host communities to supply such basic needs as food, water, and healthcare.
Our next endeavor is to enter these refugee camps and bring emotional healing and encouragement to young women and children through our unique and proven approach to counseling and trauma care. Currently, we are working on a strategy to establish Child-Mother Clubs, a program developed by ChildVoice to provide a safe connecting point between ChildVoice and girls who became mothers as children themselves. Within the setting of northern Uganda’s refugee camps, we hope to reach out to this terribly underserved population of adolescent girls with a message of hope and encouragement. The girls also will be involved in Early Childhood Development activities with their children.