Peace is a precious thing in Northern Uganda…
While the situation is currently “stable,” for 23 years, Africa’s longest-running war wreaked havoc on the Ugandan people. For more than 21 of those years, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacked, abducted, tortured and tormented the Ugandan people. Its favorite target was children; its motto was “Kill or be killed.”
Children lived every day in fear of being taken by the LRA. For years, many “commuted” by foot up to 10 miles each night to larger towns to sleep under the verandas of police stations and hospitals only to walk back home in the morning. And yet, despite these and many other desperate efforts to avoid abduction, thousands were taken. Once abducted, children were often forced by threat of torture or death to kill their own families or be killed themselves. Others were made to commit unthinkable acts, such as bite another person to death or eat human flesh. Girls, if they survived, were typically forced into sex slavery as commanders’ “wives.” Children born into the LRA and the life of a rebel knew only a life of war and brutality in the bush.
In 1998, the Ugandan government made an attempt to protect its people, giving them 48 hours to gather their belongings and move to IDP camps. These camps were cramped, food was short and shelter inadequate. The LRA soon targeted these large camps and continued its reign of terror until 2008.
Now, the LRA has moved out of Northern Uganda. A cease fire has been established and peace is being negotiated, but the condition of the North constitutes one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world. People have begun to move out of the IDP camps and back to their homes. But where is home? The infrastructure in their former villages is non-existent. Squatters now inhabit land that belonged to families for generations, and disputes have arisen around property ownership.
Between the war, a short life expectancy and the constant threat of HIV/AIDS, many children have been left orphaned. In fact, Uganda has the largest HIV/AIDS orphan population in the world. These children have limited opportunities to attend school, because they are left to fend for themselves and, in many cases, raise their younger siblings. Without an education, the Ugandan orphans, recovering child soldiers and other impoverished children face a daunting uphill battle in life. Meanwhile, the poor and widowed women left to care for them lack opportunities to generate sufficient income to care for themselves and what’s left of their families, let alone these children
Our African Promise Beads initiative is aimed at providing a market in developed countries for HIV+ widowed women to sell their beaded jewelry. The proceeds of our purchases enables these women to provide for their families and for their own medical needs. Proceeds from the sale of their products in developed countries goes back into Northern Uganda in the form of orphan care and education.