Sitting under a mango tree at ChildVoice’s Lukome Center in northern Uganda, I listened to the stories told by ChildVoice counselors. One colleague told a sad war story which, much to my surprise, evoked many laughs. He must have noted my apparent confusion at the incongruous reaction and explained, “If we mourned all of those who died, we would die of sadness. Instead we laugh and tell their stories. This is how we honor them. It’s how we survive.”
This past weekend, nearly six years later, I had the honor of sharing some of those stories with a group of 40 people at a bookstore called The Potter’s House in Washington, D.C. Many had not heard of ChildVoice before. As I read the stories from some of the young women as told in Enduring the Night: Courageous stories of survival by former girl soldiers, I was met with an interesting mix of reactions—some sad, some surprised, some angry, but all engaged and curious to learn more about these incredible survivors and the work of ChildVoice.
When I returned from my time in Uganda all those years ago, I struggled to put into words the stories I had heard, and to do so in a way that inspired others to action in support of the young women at the Lukome Center. Now, I no longer feel the need to do that because they speak for themselves through the pages of Enduring the Night. They bravely shared their stories with us and, in doing so, have inspired countless others to do the same.
Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center and friend of ChildVoice, said it best: “No matter what degree of suffering we may be experiencing, we can always learn the best lessons from those who endure the darkest of nights.”
I definitely agree. I have learned so much from the incredible young women at ChildVoice about the resilience of the human spirit and the power of simple acts of love and forgiveness to overcome darkness. In times of fear and darkness, it is more important than ever that we get to know those around us, listen to their stories and tell them ours. In doing so, we can’t help but be moved to compassion--and spurred on to take action.
by Natalie Committee-Fath, Co-Author of Enduring the Night