Home > Rose’s Story

English is not Rose’s native tongue, but we have reproduced her story here verbatim so that you can get a sense of her personality and her passion. -Ed.

It is years back, when I strongly got inspired to work with the children

while I was still a child myself. I was eight when the 20 year war in Northern Uganda began. My family and I were tortured and displaced from our small village called Acholibur. My father had several arrests and each time he was arrested, he was badly beaten to the point of death. Our hearts were always so torn apart. Being a man, our father also got detained with so many others, who were all killed, but God spared him every time. This caused his legs to be paralyzed, till today. We then fled to the refugee camps and it was there that I made so many friends. Realizing our vulnerability as children, I wanted someone to come and rescue us, but there was no one. I then wondered whether God could guide me to make some difference in our own lives. During this time all schools were closed down, many young girls were raped and defiled, many children kidnapped and abducted. We would go hungry for days without food, in fear of being found getting food from our own gardens. We would sleep out in the bush in fear of camp attacks, many were bitten by snakes during the night, heavy rains hit us, and others still met these rebels in the bush and were killed.

At the age of ten, being someone so thirsty to serve my peers, I began to teach my friends about God and I would encourage these girls to boldly reject the elder men’s’ proposals for early marriage. All this happened under a “big mango tree” and as I think back, it brings tears to my eyes. But my consolation is that, it is so amazing how God used me at that early age and I must say it really worked out. The children had a change in their lives as a result. They had every reason to refuse to attend the “mango tree Sunday school” teaching!! Besides, I was just a young girl then. But God is so amazing, none of them rejected to come and we were such a huge population. It’s now that, I can see how great and good God is. He used me in my innocence to bring some change in the life of my fellow suffering friends.?During this time, we started expanding our mission outside the “mango tree”. We would minister with our parents door to door within the refugee camp. As children from a traumatized community though, it’s now, that I can define what the problem was then. Many families had broken up and most children had been separated from their parents and were now on the streets. They would spend nights anywhere they wished and others were already involved in theft, prostitution and so on. We went and prayed with them, and I got so impressed, because so many of these street children got transformed as a result of this ministry. Many went back home and were reconciled with their parents, and we kept following them up till they settled into their homes. This made me feel that God could also strongly use me to do bigger things despite being a child.

The war then intensified and so many of these friends with whom we prayed did not survive. Some were massacred by the Rebels, others abducted and so on. We continued fleeing. I went and joined my elder sister Jessica and her family where we were safe. She took care of us and put us back in school. My heart remained behind because my parents and my friends had remained in the danger zone. This fills me with guilt to date, because I fled and left my friends who never made it. Since my heart remained back at my roots, having experienced what it felt to be caught in the war, I kept praying that God would empower me to help my people some day at school, I always targeted a course that would help me go back and work better with the suffering people in the northern part of Uganda. I then decided to do social work and social administration, I later added counseling because the war has caused a huge untold level of trauma in people’s emotions, therefore they will need a lot of psychosocial support and that, I promise to offer as long as I live.

After my Education

rose-square Immediately after my education, as promised, I went back to Northern Uganda. But this time, the rebel activities were more intense. Many from the other part of the country wondered why I was moving back to this region, given the security situation. I only told them that God will take care of me. This seemed one of the worst times. The attacks were more frequent, many children were killed and others abducted. Thousands of children would walk long distances in search of safer places within the heart of the town, where the government soldiers guarded and so the rebels feared to reach. Lots of risks rose as a result of such kind of sleeping because they slept at the shop verandas just mixed men, women and children. In the process many children were raped and tortured. As if the above trauma and torture was not enough, the children traveled very long distances both mornings and evenings. Then later to school, most times without food, if any, then one meal a day which made most of them look so weak and vulnerable to diseases. On seeing the above risks, we as volunteers wanted to see that a change is made. We advocated to the district that something must be done to make sure the children are separated from the big men who were taking the young girls at such risks of early pregnancies, HIV/aids exposure etc. We decided to spend nights out with these children so that we could guard them from the rapists. This helped some, though these same risks were also experienced on the way to these sleeping places and besides, the children were so many and scattered, meaning the three of us only wouldn’t really monitor their safety so well.

Due to this demand some NGO’s started opening the night commuter centers which helped to safeguard the children from these risks because most of them restricted the age to 17yrs maximum. We sorted out these children and we allocated them to the different centers, out of the streets. It didn’t take long, when I got employed by Medicines Sans Frontiers {msf swiss} in the night commuters’ center as a center counselor.

Here, it seemed like it was just the beginning of everything.

Over four thousand children came to this night commuter center every night. So scared, helpless, tired and most of them, so hungry. I was the only counselor to handle all these children every night. It was a big challenge. Because all of them wanted me to at least listen to them, given the different problems at hand. Most of these children were so torn away from their parents, because they had very little time for each other. Since the parents would leave their sleeping places, and immediately try and search for something to eat for the children, they move from the night commuters centers, back and right away to school without seeing their parents and during the evenings, they leave school, and most times go straight to the centers. Because if they moved back home, it gets late and risky for them on the way since the rebels would also trap them on their ways when it gets late. That is why they would choose to go hungry, rather than get abducted on the way.

It wasn’t easy for me myself, to listen to all these heart breaking stories. Many times I could first lock up myself into the counseling room and weep, before I could go on again. It was so terrible seeing and listening to very heavy stories, from a baby. So young to even carry the burdens of life but they are already doing so.During this time, I made individual and group counseling. Through this, I was trying to lift these children back on their feet, but the situation here was so tricky. Reason being, it was very hard to terminate a session with these child. Their problems were always retriggered immediately they leave the center. Some of the perpetrators are the guardians, frustrated parents, and the rebels themselves. So I had to carry on with all the clients on board. I then decided to design another method of work. I started working 24hrs day’s planed a day schedule from 8:00am-6:00pm and from here I moved direct to the night commuters’ center. During this time, I made follow ups and family/school monitoring. I also made door to door counseling to both the children and their family members affected by the war. This seemed to work, because then, I was available for them whole day and even all night from the center. All in all I thank God for the strength he gives me to serve the children. On my own, I know I could do nothing.

After a year, I moved to World Vision, though still worked with the same children, but this time under another organization. On top of that, I had more vulnerable children to deal with this time. The formerly abducted, others could have spent as long as ten years and above in abduction, has under gone a lot. For example: children who had killed several people including their own close relatives, psychological torture, like killing their own parents, cutting the stomach and removing her intestines, then it is rubbed all over ones body and one is forced to stay with it that way, for a week, in the name of initiation to wipe away all the fear and make one bold to freely kill as many people as possible. I think you can now imagine the level of trauma we had to fight out. Within the community, I went ahead with the group method, here I was trying to reduce the stigmatization of the formerly abducted and former soldiers, enhance proper reintegration, through the kind of forgiveness we got from Christ, so unconditional!. We decided to mix these formerly abducted with the none formerly abducted so that we could give them a clear understanding of each other, and it’s the same them, who help us sensitize the community through music, dance and drama. Before this, the formerly abducted were rejected from the community, with a wrong perception that they are the ones who have caused all the suffering people are under going in the North. So this made many parents reject their own children, with the fear that the other community members will attack them. This provoked many of these formerly abducted to move back in the bush and join the rebels. With all the anger, they have been the worst in making serious vengeful attacks to these community members. But when the anti stigmatization campaigns went on, the community started understanding and now as I talk, it has really worked out well. We are still moving on with these sensitizations from camp to camp and the community response is really good, thus more corporation between the formerly abducted and community at large.

Well, that is what I’m still doing up to now. Though the government ordered that all the night commuter centers get closed, last Dec 15, 2006. And so now that the security was a bit calm compared to before, most of these children now sleep at home. Through some still went back in some verandas due to the fear of abduction and besides, most of these displaced families have limited space at home so the parents/guardians don’t fit in the small huts rented so the children are sent out to look for where to sleep.

roseWhen time had come for me to leave World Vision, because my contract with them had ended, I told myself that the end of this contract does not mean the end of my work. So I just continued to do the same kind of work with the children. Looking at their faces calling out for help, I really couldn’t let them go, because they are so precious to me. What I do with them, is so little, but they have made me understand that this little thing means a lot to them. Being there for them whenever they need me means a lot in their lives. And I thank God who still enables me to be around them.

As usual, God sees miles ahead of our sights. During this time we surely needed some support beyond what I was providing for the children, so I always shared this with friends so that we can pray for God’s provision, besides the counseling and follow up I’m doing. To my surprise, one day, an organization called ALARM came with a team that was ready to provide to the child headed house holds. I remember that day; I was just from visiting a child headed household. They are five at home, the eldest is 13 yrs, she was so sick that day and so the family had spent some three days back without food, there wasn’t any drugs for her to take, so she was just waiting for anything to come her way. When i reached there, she felt so relived and was sure that as usual, I have either brought them food or some money for upkeep.

Unfortunately, I had nothing that day because I was so broke myself. On seeing the condition, I decided to rush home so that I could get them even the little I had, plus some medication. That is when God opened for us a way. I got this call that the child headed families will be supported in terms of school fees, meals and medical care and this money was already sent to my account. I just sat down in the middle of the road and wept with joy. Though this seemed just a drop in an ocean, but it means a lot in the heart of these few beneficiaries their lives are changed because of this and so many out here are still looking for the same.

Never did God stop here with his surprises, he went ahead and introduced me to someone so loving and caring to the children and that is a sister in Christ Cindy Cunningham. She then came up with even a greater dream for these children, just like I did but I couldn’t afford at my level of course. This dream is that of a children’s’ home fully equipped with the basic needs like a school.

And this Village is called “Village of Hope”

When she shared this idea with me, I felt it was God’s calling. And as I speak I’m already working for “Village of Hope”. I must confess I’m so glad that I can work to fulfill the children’s’ dream through Village of Hope, I pray God gives me more strength to make his will be done for the suffering children of Northern Uganda.

Many of these children were born within this war time and so they have never seen what a peaceful home is like!!! They get surprised when they hear of a warless land, to them it’s strange and unrealistic all they know of is war, fights, fleeing, abductions, killing and seeing loved ones get killed, family separation and losing hope for any good, happening to them at all. This gives a great opportunity to Village of Hope to operate and see to it that, this need is addressed by the grace of God I believe these children will see the other side of the coin. We will struggle and together fill this gap.

Our cry goes out to any heart that feels for these wounded children who lost their childhood, the same way we do, to come and join hands and together we will make the total healing in their lives. For it doesn’t take a millionaire to bring this transformation, because we serve a big, big God. Even the poorest is most welcome into this battle. Remember!!! A Thousand years from now, it won’t mater the expensive fancy cars we drove, the big mansions we occupied, the heavy bank accounts we owned, but many generations will know about the transformation you brought into the lives of these wounded children in Africa.

We need your continuous prayers! May God bless every reader. Love from the very bottom of my heart and that of the children I work for they love you big-time.? We are all praying for you too.

May God bless you always.
Rose