Life Expectancy: 51.9 years
GDP: US$455 per capita
75.6% earn less than US$2 per day
UGA03a - Hope Restoration Centre
In Lira, Northern Uganda, there is a family struggling to cope with the impact of the internal war with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Twenty-eight children are being cared for by two sisters and their families. These children have been captured, some of them raped and beaten, some were child soldiers. They are living in a rented house, being fed and sent to school.
History Of Partnership
This is the story of a tragedy that can almost not be believed. Sadly, it is true and it has been repeated many times over in this part of Uganda.
In the late 1990's and into early 2000 the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels came to the villages in the North of Uganda and over a period of time captured hundreds of young people and children. Whole families were gathered together and after killing the parents because they were too old to convert into rebels, sometimes in front of the children, they were dragged off into the bush. The children were roped together and taken towards the Sudanese border but any who could not keep up the pace or carry the loads they were assigned were killed. The girls were raped first. They would ask them if they wanted a rest and if they responded “yes”, they would say I will give you a rest and shot them or chopped them up with knives and killed them. This caused so much trauma to the children that for some time after they were rescued they would never complain of being tired for fear that they would be killed.
The children that are now at HRC managed to escape and made their way back to the village where they knew that Rev. Zadok Okello had a home for children. He had built shelters around a large courtyard and provided food for any children who were orphaned.
In 2003 the LRA took Zadok captive and killed him and 63 Christians on the same day. It seems that they assembled all the people in one place where supposedly the LRA commander was going to address the people but instead the LRA soldiers opened fire on them, killed 63 and injured many more. Zadok’s body was found after eight days in the bush and buried by Government soldiers. The other bodies were not buried but eaten by dogs, hyenas and pigs.
After Zadok's death all the children fled into the bush in any direction to escape the LRA and hid for some days. Penninah, Zadok's daughter, managed to get all the children she could find into an Internally Displaced Persons Camp at Alanyi which is a Catholic Mission. The Bishop hired a truck and under military escort the children were all transported to Lira where they stayed in a crude camp for about five months until they moved into the house that is now HRC.
Penninah is a trained nurse and a widow who has adult children elsewhere. When the LRA killed Zadok they burnt his house down with all the records of the children in it. Many of them do not remember their birth dates and the records have been destroyed.
Bright Hope World heard this story in 2005 from another of his daughters, Anna, who was working in another partnership being developed. We could not sit back and do nothing, so we gave some funds to get the children out of the IDP camp and into better accommodation. Another organisation began supporting the children but that only lasted a couple of years before it disintegrated. In 2006 we funded some bunk beds for the children as they were all sleeping on the floor at the time. Anna came back to us in 2006 to tell us that the children were in a bad state again and they needed regular funding to go to school and to get regular food and support so towards the end of 2007 we commenced regular support. This required us to pay off some debts that had accumulated and to establish regular funding.
Bright Hope World staff visited Lira and the children in 2007 and we intend to develop this partnership into the future.
The 28 (the number is a little flexible!) children who were the children that Zadok was caring for and that Penninah was able to rescue and find.
What We Like About The Partnership
We love it that the children have been rescued from death, slavery and bondage. We like the fact that those caring for the children are doing so out of strong loyalty and commitment.
This project has given hope, security, education, food and shelter to 28 children and young people orphaned as a result of LRA rebel activities in the north of Uganda. The children appear healthy and happy and a number of them are achieving extremely well in school. They are a ‘family’ and regard each other as brothers and sisters and work well together.
Anna Ocen is the key person for us in this partnership. She is the daughter of Zadok and the sister of Penninah who cares for the children. Anna is married to Simon and they have a small family of their own and a few others they care for and have brought into their family. They live in Mbale which is a long way from Lira where the orphans are based. Anna travels there once or twice month to visit the children and provides accountability.
She is an accountant so is able to provide good reports.
Other People Involved
Penninah Okello, see above for some of her details.
Vision And Annual Strategy
The vision is pretty much the same each year, to provide a safe and secure environment for the children traumatised by their circumstances.
The strategy is to have them living in a house with people who are able to care for them and provide holistic care.
BHW would like to do two more things here: to assist those caring for the children with some extra funds for expenses and to refurbish a grinding mill so it can operate as a business and reduce the dependence on external funding.
The annual budget here is a high amount per child but these children are a special case in our minds. We are fully funding every aspect of their lives. This budget supplies the following:
- rental for a large house for them to live in
- education costs including uniforms, materials, school fees etc
- all their food requirements
- some small amounts for the people who come to help
This partnership is currently funded by Valley Church in Seattle, USA.
Real "Life Change" Stories
Sharon is 13 years old and was born on 28/04/1994.
The LRA came to their house and killed her parents but she does not remember when this happened. She went to Rev Zadok’s house for shelter. After she had been there for some time the LRA surrounded the house and started shooting, killing many people. Zadok went outside to meet them and they tied him up and took him away.
Sharon ran into the bush with the other children and they hid for many days. They would hide under grass and sleep with grass over them so the LRA would not see them, but at any sign of life in the bush the rebels would shoot at it, so they lay low until the shooting stopped and then would move to another place. They stole food from other people’s crops and ate cassava and green leaves. There was no shelter and they were exposed to the rain often. Each child would take their own path to confuse the LRA and they tried desperately to find someone to help but there was nobody. Eventually they found a house with no roof and sheltered there for 4 days.
Penninah came looking for them and found them and took them to a Camp and eventually to Lira.