Friday, July 27, 2007

What do we do at the weekend?

Children in SOS Children’s Village Gulu are always kept busy on weekends. They do various routine household activities such as cleaning inside their rooms and washing their clothes. Older children help the young ones to wash their clothes. There are other planned educational and recreational activities as well in which children get involved.

Fourteen children between 10 and 13, participate in the Gulu Kids League, a soccer tournament for children in Gulu municipality. Every Saturday afternoon, they go to a nearby school football pitch for training. The village boasts a good football team that plays entertaining football worth watching. A tour to Kampala is being organised and the team will play three friendly matches with Kampala Kids League teams and the SOS Children’s Village Kakiri soccer team, during their second term holidays. The tour will also be a good occasion for the children to see the world outside Gulu.

Apart from football, weekends include music dance and drama lessons with the help of an external trainer and two interested SOS mothers. Children are mainly taught songs and Acholi cultural dances on Saturday afternoons and, as a result, there is a village choir.

One family is interested in gardening thanks to Mother Julian who initiated this activity to help the children learn some agricultural skills. They have taken advantage of the ongoing rainy season to grow beans and maize on a sizeable plot within the village, which the family tends on selected weekdays and Saturdays. Their crops look impressive and other families will be inspired to follow their example. Julian and her family want all the children in the village to benefit from their efforts when the crops are harvested and become part of the menu.

In northern Uganda, local TV stations are not accessible apart from two international TV stations only accessed by subscribers. To fill this gap, a video programme was put in place to help the children learn spontaneously and to involve them in meaningful activities.

On Sundays all children go for prayers to their respective churches in the morning hours. Grownup children go alone but young children move with their mothers. It is a day children like, because apart from going to church, nice meals are prepared for them. In the afternoon children are trained on the Lawala Game, an Acholi cultural activity (more about this in future blogs), by the Lawala Game Association, an association formed to use Acholi cultural activities in northern Uganda. The children have taken a lot of interest in this game and a competition tournament is being planned in which SOS children will compete with other teams. This competition will also be used to advocate against HIV/AIDS, which is a social problem in the north.

Plans are underway to introduce as many other games to the children as our resources can allow in supporting them to develop their skills and to make their weekends and holidays enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Empowering families in the community

Denis Lyagoba is a social worker at the village and works on the family strengthening programmes. He wants to empower families to look after themselves:

"SOS Children’s Village Gulu, through its Family Strengthening Programme (FSP), has empowered many families in the local community in many ways, and most people in Gulu talk good of the organisation because of this programme, which is intended to stop child abandonment.

Julius (not real name) aged seven, is one of the beneficiaries on the FSP programme. He is currently attending SOS Day Care Centre. His mother died of HIV/AIDS and left him with his grandmother, who takes care of him. Recently they received one cock from the FSP programme, for crossbreeding with their local chicken to get an improved breed, which in turn will be a source of income to the family. At his age, Julius has amusingly taken a lot of interest in caring for the chicken more than anything else at home. The chicken looks healthy and well looked after.

Innocent (not real name) is another interesting and enterprising boy, who lost both parents and is currently living with his grandmother. He has devotedly, together with his best friend from the neighborhood, taken advantage of the ongoing rainy season and planted maize on a sizable plot of land, using seeds distributed by the programme. According to his caregiver, he intends to sell the harvest to raise some little additional money for buying scholastic materials and clothes. Innocent has a hearing impairment and SOS Children's Villages is going to facilitate his operation in Kampala.

SOS Children's Villages is committed to empower the 86 FSP families with over 400 beneficiaries already on the programme, thanks to the continued support given by development partners and local leaders. The number of children in need of such support in northern Uganda is still overwhelming. "

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The suffering of women and children in northern Uganda

The endless war in northern Uganda has affected mostly women and children. Many women have become widows as a result of the rebels killing their husbands. Consequently, they are overloaded with the heavy responsibility of looking after orphans.

And women do not have time to rest. They wake up early in the morning to find ways of feeding their children, with whom they have to move long distances in search of food. At the end of the day, they come back very tired, and so stressed and frustrated that they cannot sleep at night.

The majority of women are suffering due to the loss of their husbands and relatives. They look for money to take their children to school yet they have no proper source of income, nobody to give them a hand, because almost everybody finds herself in the same situation.

Socially, most women have low self-esteem as a result of this war that has left with them lifelong bad memories. Either they have been sexually abused by the rebels and other people taking advantage of war, or they have been abducted from their families and taken to the bush,
where they have seen their loved ones being slaughtered, including their own children.
They find themselves lonely and isolated leading to low self-esteem and inability to cope in the society.

Many young ladies are child mothers who bore children after being forced into marriage by the rebels at a young age. This has affected their own mothers so much on seeing their daughters returning home, at the age of 20, with several children. And the social life of the Acholi women has greatly changed. Some women have become unfaithful while others have unwanted pregnancies and end up either aborting or abandoning the babies on failing to be supported.

Children, on the other hand, have been so much abused. They return home from the bush when they are mentally traumatised and unable to live with other normal children. They display inappropriate behaviours to the extent that handling them requires specialists, who are lacking in our community. Men have abandoned their families and children have suffered most. This explains why there is an increasing number of street children in Gulu town and other towns in northern Uganda.

However, despite the overwhelming numbers of needy children, organisations such as SOS Children's Villages are playing a very important role in preventing child abandonment and catering for the orphaned and abandoned children of northern Uganda.

by Harriet Acan Moro, SOS Aunt Gulu