SPECIAL FEATURE CHILD SOLDIERS
One of the World's Most Neglected Humanitarian Crises
What if a band of armed gangsters forced their way into your house, beat and bound you, and then dragged your screaming children off with them? What if they taught your 8 year-old son how to maim and kill people and traumatized him to the point where he didn't know how to do anything else - to the point where he would even kill his own family members? What if they gang-raped your 10-year old daughter and then forced her to serve them as a sex slave?
We don't even want to think about this kind of evil. We don't want to believe in its reality. We want to look away and read something else. It's a very human reaction.
And yet, while the world has been looking away:
More than 30,000 Ugandan children have been forcibly abducted from their homes and subjected to these unspeakable atrocities and worse.
Another 1.7 million people have been displaced from their homes and are now crowded into squalid camps.
As many as 1,000 people die in the refugee camps every week from disease and violence - over 40% of them small children under the age of five.
The UN calls it one of the world's most neglected humanitarian crises.
The perpetrators of this evil are members of the so-called "Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA), a ruthless band of guerrilla's who have been terrorizing northern Uganda since the late 1980s. Their leader, Joseph Kony, fuels and sustains his army with "child soldiers", abducting them from their homes and more recently via violent raids on the displacement camps. It's estimated that some 80% of the LRA is now made up of child soldiers.
So What Can We Do?
Edmund Burke famously observed that "the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to sit back and do nothing". So if we want to sit up and do something instead of nothing, what can we do? The following simple steps will help you make a difference:
Get informed and stay informed about what is happening.
Let your Congressman or Member Of Parliament know that you are concerned. This really does make a difference, and the Internet makes it easy to do. Go to: http://www.house.gov/writerep/.
Invest in groups who are making a difference on the ground, where your resources will have the greatest impact in victims' lives.
Children's Hunger Relief Fund (CHRF) has been active in Uganda for over a decade. We partner with several Ugandan organizations who are laying their lives on the line every day for the children and families they serve. People like Edward Kaggwa , who runs a school and feeding program for some 500 children in the Luweero Jungle, on the southern perimeter of the LRA terror zone. Like Jay and Vicki Dangers and his 50-strong staff at New Hope who care for some 350 children in the heart of the Luweero Triangle, even closer to the war zone. And like John Obokech , who cares for hundreds of AIDS orphans and other street children through his Charis Center projects in Kampala and surrounding districts.
For $0.15, you can provide a meal to a hungry child.
For $55, you can feed a child for 6 months (2 meals/day).
For $110, you can feed a child for a year.
New Hope for Uganda 's Children
Field Report from CHRF Board Director
There are over 2 million orphans in Uganda . The majority of these children have lost their parents to AIDS, and many are themselves sick. Others are victims of war and violence. Tens of thousands of these children have been left to fend for themselves in the bush or on the streets. Unless they receive help, they will become just another statistic in a country that has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. New Hope 's Children Centre was established to help children such as these. Located deep in the Luweero Triangle, in the midst of the LRA terror zone, New Hope provides a safe refuge to some 120 children who live on site and another 200+ who receive education, food, clothing and love within New Hope 's walls.
The boarding students are divided into families, each living in their own "village" with their "father" and "mother" - Ugandan staff members who become parents to the orphaned children. The site also includes a clinic, Hope House (a home for abandoned babies and special needs children), Esuubi Eppya Primary Vocational School, New Hope Academy (a secondary school), Kasana Community Church, New Hope Institute for Childcare and Family, and New Hope Vocational Institute (which provides vocational training to young men and women to equip them for productive futures). I always come away from New Hope marveling at what these people are accomplishing. If these children are the future - and I know that they are-then there is hope for Uganda. And for us all.
It costs approximately $50 a month to provide full care (food, clothing, housing, medical, education) for a child at New Hope . Care costs for special needs children run approximately $80 a month to provide for the extra medical and staff attention.
Vest say's "Well what are you waiting for, you tight wads. Remember the more of your Food Dollar you give to any group of under privileged children, the thinner and healthier you will become yourselves. Give generously, and feel good about yourself by doing so.
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