By ChildVoice team member Nancy Hellmann
Hello from ChildVoice’s Lukome Center in northern Uganda! My first trip to Uganda with ChildVoice was in 2007, during its “early days.” The program already had strong foundations that included counseling, spiritual development, individualized plans, and parenting skills for the young child mothers in the program who had experienced so much trauma and loss in their lives. In God’s redemptive plan, this program of rescue and restoration was located on the site of one of the largest massacres in Uganda’s bloody conflict. Girls who were harmed in so many ways were being given hope and a future through the love of Jesus and the dedication of ChildVoice. It was inspiring.
Visiting Uganda 10 years later and seeing how the program has grown was even more inspiring! ChildVoice has moved to an amazing “campus,” which includes an impressive farm. This beautiful community setting is filled with lovely traditional-style residences that serve as homes for the girls and their children, with larger buildings containing classrooms. The staff is so impressive -- caring, compassionate, intelligent, passionate, and committed. The vocational program allows the girls to master their specialties -- one of those girls is Tracy, a ChildVoice graduate who is the culinary and bakery instructor.
We had a wonderful time enjoying the company of the beautiful students/child mothers and the amazing staff! Below is a group shot of Class 10, one of three classes at the center when we visited in August.
We made friendship bracelets with the girls one night after prayers. Their excitement at learning something new was infectious -- many are very artistic and crafty. Some of the girls chose ChildVoice colors (red and black) for their bracelets! Another day we took photos of the girls and their children and made frames for them in the evening. The frames had color, shapes, glitter, everything you could imagine all on one frame! Our final project was shoulder bags made from T-shirts. We showed them the process and helped, but they did most of the work. I think they liked the way they turned out. These evenings spent with the girls were a delight!
I saw the most beautiful sky full of stars one night -- better than any planetarium I have ever visited. The African sky is amazing! I couldn't get a photo to do it justice, so I will just have to remember.
Sunday at the Lukome Center means going to church in the morning. In the afternoon we broke out the soccer balls, Frisbees, and bubbles that we had brought and spent some time playing with the girls and their children.
The Lukome Center farm is well organized and beautiful. I was most impressed when I learned that each student has a garden plot of her own; she determines the crops she wants to grow, and then ChildVoice purchases back the produce for its meals. The funds are placed into a savings account for each girl so she has some money available as she transitions to her internship. What a wonderful plan! The students are learning skills for the future while saving to fulfill their dreams! It was terrific to see first-hand how dedicated the girls are to their success in the program, and how filled with joy they are. It is truly one big family – once a ChildVoice girl, always a ChildVoice girl!
We accompanied the girls on a community-service day to help several elderly residents living nearby. The girls’ faces lit up as they were able to help others in their community. They quickly set to work cleaning, washing dishes, getting water from the borehole, and doing other tasks. Happily chatting and singing as they worked, they efficiently made such a difference for their elders. Our group went to the home of an 85-year-old woman who lived through the Ugandan civil war. She shared her experiences of living through the rebel attacks. Through all, she gave glory to God and thanked us for coming to see her. Before we left, the staff brought her bags of rice, cabbage, fish, and other foods, which would provide her with meals for a month. It was both humbling and exciting to have joined these wonderful girls in serving their community.
Our delightful time in Uganda ended with a boat ride on the Nile River and a hike up to Murchinson Falls in Murchinson Falls National Park. It was quite hot that day as we hiked from the river up to the top of the falls. But it was worth it!
Are you interested in having your own first-hand adventure at the Lukome Center? We have team mission dates scheduled throughout 2018. Click here to learn more!
Nancy Hellmann is a long-time friend of ChildVoice who lives in Dover, New Hampshire. She also is a strong advocate for empowering adolescent girls who have been victimized by war and poverty. Nancy traveled to the Lukome Center in northern Uganda with a team in August 2017, 10 years after her first visit to the Center.