20 years of conflict between the rebel army, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda in the north of the country forced over 1.8 million people to flee their homes and take refuge within displacement camps. The conflict left thousands of children orphaned and traumatised.
Following the beginning of a tentative peace after the government removed the LRA from Uganda in 2006, security has greatly improved. Whole communities who were living in displacement camps for almost two decades are returning to their homes to rebuild their lives. Thousands of abducted children have been released by the LRA and are also returning to their homes. Most of these children are unable to read or write and a generation of illiterate children is now emerging. Thousands of other children have lost one or both parents and are reliant on extended families. These children survive with deep emotional scars due to their traumatic experiences of rape, witness to murder and other atrocities.
Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)
PARUDA: Arua District
PARUDA stands for Participatory Rural Development Agency and was established in 2002. Based in the district of Arua (northwest Uganda), the agency targets poor, disadvantaged, marginalised, rural subsistence farmers, many of whom are illiterate or semi-illiterate with limited mobility.
PARUDA addresses poverty with the Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) programme based on the philosophy that the person dealing with a problem knows the problem best. They offer training and education in a number of areas—from modern farming techniques to adult literacy to nutrition. Materials and tools are not free but subsidized and loans are available for large purchases. They work with groups of the same economic status, and projects are in-line with government policy. More than 1,500 beneficiary households have been involved and those visited demonstrated the programme’s effectiveness: families were more united and moved beyond subsistence farming to improve their homesteads’ infrastructure and sanitation.
IRT is looking to support PARUDA so that they can spread the PLA programme to other organisations throughout northern Uganda.
Obaya Community Association: Lira
IRT's first partner to receive training from PARUDA is the Obaya Community Accociation (OCA).
In 2009 we started funding an agricultural project run by this community association. OCA aims to help people rebuild their lives following their return to their homes. We have been funding their bee-keeping/honey production and citrus fruit tree growing projects.
Since the spring of 2011, IRT has funded staff from PARUDA (see the above section) to train OCA staff members and the local community. Particular problems of the communities in the OCA’s area include:
- shortage of drinking water
- domestic violence
- women’s subservience to men
Through community meetings and working closely with the local people, the approach of Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) has allowed OCA to identify these issues and is now aiming to resove them through focussing on the follwing three sectors:
- Savings and credit
IRT has chosen to support the approach of PLA as we feel it will enable people to eventually stand on their own feet rather than forever rely on the charity of foreign agencies. By addressing their problems themselves, the local community is empowered to take control of their own future.
Oxen Agricultural Project: Amuru District
Agricultural production was the mainstay of the Northern Uganda rural economy until the hostilities virtually brought farming to a standstill over 20 years ago. Families who were moved to displacement camps for their own protection were forced to survive on food aid. Now that families are returning to their former homes in the rural villages, IRT is helping them to re-develop the agricultural potential of their land.
In 2007 IRT started working with a local community-based group called "Farming is Good Life". 52 oxen were provided together with ploughs, seeds and training, not only in how to plough but also in how to manage their groups. 250 families benefited from the project and IRT expanded this project which now continues to assist even more families.
Education and Child Support
King of Kings School: Iganga
This school is a well-respected secondary school. We are now in the third year of a four year commitment to fund the education costs of 12 IDP pupils (11 girls and 1 boy) as well as their accommodation and food costs. These children have none of their own money and, so they may earn some, we have also paid for seeds and equipment for them to grow some vegetables which they can sell.
Redeemer Children’s Home: Moyo District
The Sacred Heart Sisters, an African order, established the Redeemer Children's Home in 1998 and IRT has been its main funder from the very early beginnings. 58 refugee orphaned children aged between 6 and 18 live at the home, and are cared for with devotion by the Sisters.
In June 2003 the home, then based in the town of Adjumani, was attacked by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army and 16 of the children were abducted. The Sisters had to act swiftly to take the remaining children to relative safety – they could not stay where they were for fear the rebels would return for them. They lived in cramped, temporary accommodation, but at least they were safe. Thankfully 14 of the children managed to escape over the next two years, but we know one was killed and one is still missing.
Plans were drawn up for a new home, to be based in the much safer town of Moyo, approximately 40 miles to the West and on the other side of the river Nile. Subsequently land was acquired for the new home and over the course of the following three years, IRT successfully raised the funds to ensure the home was completed.
We are now supporting the Sisters to establish income-generating projects so that the home can become increasingly self-sufficient. We are also engaged in dialogue with the local community, members of parliament and district officials to ensure that they play their role in the home's management and sustainability.
Moyo Babies' Home: Moyo District
Without this home abandoned and orphaned refugee babies would die. It is run by the Sacred Heart Sisters who, with their care assistants, provide a loving environment, food and basic medical care. Some of the babies are very ill when they arrive at the home, but with care and nourishment most are nursed back to health.
It is the only home of its kind for many miles because looking after babies is hugely labour-intensive and therefore expensive. IRT ensures that the home has enough money to pay for food, clothing, nursery schooling and wages of the care assistants. The livingquarters of the care assistants were in a very bad state of repair and last year we funded the rebuilding of their accommodation.
The Sisters try to find homes for the babies, but if they cannot the children move on to the Redeemer Children’s Home when they are 6 years old.