The past few days I have been in the northern part of Uganda, in a city called Lira about two hours from Gulu.
Just a little history on the area: from 1986-2006 a rebel leader named Joseph Kony created an army called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerilla rebel group, with the aim of overthrowing the Ugandan president. Over the course of the insurgency, the LRA kidnapped thousands of children from the northern part of the country, forced them to be child soldiers in his army and killed hundreds of civilians. This devastated the northern part of the country and forced many civilians to flee to Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps to keep safe from the LRA. Eventually Kony and what remained of his army were pushed out of the country.
Since 2006, people in the northern part of the country have been working to rebuild their lives and their communities. After the conflict ended many children were left without parents and homes to return to, so many nongovernmental organizations and churches have come to help, establishing children's homes to house the children who were affected.
As these homes continue to develop and grow, many are attempting to cultivate plots of land to provide for the children within the homes. One organization called Field of Hope is here trying to see if they can be of some help to some of these organizations overseeing the development of these agricultural projects through training and mechanization. My time up here in the north has been spent visiting the different homes and viewing their agricultural projects with Field of Hope.
Me talking to some of the kids at a children's home
Visiting the different homes has been one of the best parts of my trip. The children are so loving and so joyful. When walking to one home, a group of kids from the village began to follow us and wanted to hold our hands as we walked. When visiting a couple of other homes, the children gave us a huge welcome by singing and dancing for us as we arrived. Seeing the kids makes the work so much more meaningful. It puts a face on the work we're doing. I think it is easy to sometimes get caught up in the process of development and forget the "why" behind it. Even just being here for only a couple of weeks. Seeing the kids reminds you just why you are here.
Hilary Gibson is a 2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Gibson is from Shawnee, Oklahoma, and has one more semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on trade and ethics.