This landlocked country in East Africa has a tropical climate and encompasses a rich array of wildlife, including the endangered mountain gorilla. The official national language is English, although other ethnic languages are spoken such as Arabic, Acholi, Swahili, and Bantu. Much of rural Uganda is plagued by poverty, with people subsisting on whatever they can grow on small plots of land or raise as cash crops, such as coffee and tea.
ChildVoice got its start in the Lukodi region of northern Uganda in 2006, in direct response to the atrocities perpetrated against children by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). At that time, more than 30,000 children had been abducted by the LRA and forced to become child soldiers. Today the wounds of war have begun to heal, but many young children and their families continue to struggle from the effects of trauma and poverty.
At the Lukome Center, we work to transform the lives of the most vulnerable adolescent girls who have been caught in the crosshairs of war and poverty. Our sanctuary village setting provides these girls and their children with a safe place in which to build a brighter future as they receive love, education, counseling, and vocational skills--all with the goal of having them reintegrate within their communities as self-sufficient leaders and valued income-earners.
Currently, Uganda is trying to accommodate the influx of South Sudanese refugees who have poured over its northern border to escape their country’s civil war. Resources in northern Uganda’s refugee settlements are stretched to the limit, as nearly a million refugees tax the ability of local host communities to supply such basic needs as food, water, and healthcare. ChildVoice already has established a staffed compound in Imvepi settlement and hope to enter other refugee settlements as well, bringing healing with our unique and proven approach to counseling and trauma care.
As the world’s newest nation—having seceded from the Republic of Sudan in 2011—South Sudan has seen more than its share of violence and disruption in the past few years. Our hope had been to launch a pilot program for boys in 2016 in the city of Yei, but those hopes were dashed as civil war and tribal conflict in the region spiraled out of control. The explosion of hostilities has forced almost two million people to flee for their lives across the border into Uganda and other neighboring countries, according to USAID.gov, leaving Yei virtually deserted by its residents.
In light of this increasingly dangerous security situation, we chose instead to bring some of South Sudan’s most vulnerable girls to the Lukome Center as students. Many have come from northern Uganda’s overcrowded refugee settlements. Resources in these settlements are stretched to the limit, as nearly a million South Sudanese have taxed the ability of local host communities to supply such basic needs as food, water, and healthcare.
Our presence in Imvepi refugee settlement is bringing emotional healing, basic physical needs, and vocational skills to young South Sudanese girls and their children through counseling, hygiene classes, and life-skills training. Within the settlement, we have established ChildVoice Empowerment Groups to provide a safe connecting point between ChildVoice and young girls who are suffering from the effects of war in South Sudan. Our desire is to reach out to this under-served population of adolescent girls with a message of hope and encouragement.
This West African nation is anchored by the bustling port city of Lagos and its central capital of Abuja. Predominantly Muslin in the north and Christian to the south, Nigeria manages to maintain a refreshing sense of harmony between the two religions as they live side by side in some regions. The main threat to peace in Nigeria is the jihadist violence perpetrated by the extremist group Boko Haram, known for its infamous Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping in April 2014. Boko Haram continues to terrorize towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria.
ChildVoice now is registered as an NGO there and is setting up its base of operations in Yola, the capital of Adamawa state in eastern Nigeria. Here, we are working with refugees in the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps who have fled the Boko Haram. The vast majority of these are women and children who have witnessed horrific violence and have been highly traumatized as a result. Our hope is to bring them therapeutic counseling, basic necessities, and loving care as they try to move past their experiences.