Child Soldiers, 2010
The children of Northern Uganda faced an unimaginable horror for a quarter of a century. Thousands of children as young as nine years old were captured by the rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and forced into servitude as child soldiers. The atrocities that they experienced are beyond the understanding of people like us who live comfortable and secure lives. The insurrection has effectively ended so hopefully Uganda has seen and end to the outrage.
For the past ten years my brother, David, and I have worked to educate a relatively small number of these children. Our aim was to keep them safe from re-capture from their remote villages by enrolling them in boarding schools. To our surprise and delight they embraced the opportunity for schooling and our initial goal of securing their safety evolved into supporting them through high school and now college. We have seven who have graduated from college and seventeen who are currently at university including a young man in medical school. Many others completed high school and returned to their villages and there are several who could not overcome their trauma and with whom we lost touch.
David and I travelled to Uganda in September of 2011 where we attended the graduation of Komagum Joseph from Uganda Christian University with a degree in Public Health. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in that field. We returned filled with great gratitude and satisfaction at the progress of these remarkable young people whose faces express the joy, hope, enthusiasm and pride they feel.
I have drawn and painted their portraits and offer two of the drawings for this exhibit.. Wokarach Deogratius attends Gulu University where he is working towards a degree in Information Technology. He was captured when he was 11 years old and spent 8 years in captivity. At age eleven Komagum Joseph witnessed the murder of his brother and his parents when he was captured. He spent four years in captivity.
I have learned much about the resilience of the human spirit from these remarkable young people and thank them for the lessons they have taught me about resilience, kindness and hope.