ChildVoice was founded in 2006 to restore the voices of children silenced by war in northern Uganda. At that time, more than 30,000 children had been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and forced to become soldiers. Of the children who were able to escape, many returned home to face innumerable hardships, from post-traumatic stress disorder to a lack of educational opportunities.
Since 2007, ChildVoice’s Lukome Center in northern Uganda has provided a therapeutic community for adolescent girls, including former child soldiers and sex slaves, war orphans, child mothers, and other highly vulnerable girls from Uganda and South Sudan. At the Center, girls are able to recover from the trauma of war and receive the educational and vocational training they so desperately need to rebuild their lives.
In 2015, we published Enduring the Night: Courageous Stories of Survival by Former Girl Soldiers. Featuring more than 200 pages of powerful photography, this book was inspired by Grace and several other students from ChildVoice’s Lukome Center. These heartrending tales shine a light on the oppression that girls face around the globe.
A New Decade
While Uganda is no longer at war, the effects of years of conflict have left generations of families struggling to recover from trauma and poverty. In addition, years of civil war in South Sudan have left that country in tatters; ChildVoice now serves as an authorized NGO at Imvepi refugee settlement, where tens of thousands of South Sudanese men, women, and children have fled since fighting and violence broke out in their country.
As part of our community-based efforts at Imvepi, ChildVoice has launched dozens of Empowerment Groups for adolescent girls so they can receive psychosocial counseling, learn valuable life skills, and have access to health and hygiene kits for themselves and their children. This support will equip them for a lifetime of self-empowerment.
In 2017, ChildVoice explored the possibility of expanding into northeastern Nigeria to confront the devastating effects of Boko Haram in that region. Boko Haram is one of the most violent extremist jihadist groups in the world; it continues to terrorize towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria and frequently uses children as suicide bombers. Our exploratory trips were well received by local leaders and government officials, all of whom expressed interest in having the ChildVoice model brought to their country.
As Boko Haram violence escalated, it became clear in early 2018 that a ChildVoice presence was both needed and desired in northeastern Nigeria. Our mission is to enter the region’s internally displaced persons (IDP) camps with our community-based program of Girl Empowerment Groups, bringing hope where there is violence, suffering, and despair.