Katja Ortiz Hintz
This month’s Open House evening was on Uganda. Article 25 is working with Jubilee Action to build a Vocational Training and Counseling Centre for former child soldiers in Patongo, Northern Uganda. The centre will improve the future life chances of young people who have grown up accustomed to nothing but violence and fear. Patongo is home to thousands of refugees and was regularly raided by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during its 22 year war. The centre will benefit young people and particularly former child soldiers between the ages of 13-30, and will be a conduit for rehabilitation in the community.
Attendees included Henning Stummel who designed the Vocational Training Centre and partner organization Jubilee Action CEO Nigel Edward-Few as well as some of our trustees and former Article 25 staff. Alex Llado, our engineer in the field was able to shed some light on the actual implications of working on site. He has spent 8 months in Patongo working alongside the community and supervising the construction of the building. It offered everyone in the room a chance to reflect on how far the project has come.
In addition, Agnes Lagen, Head of Counselling at the Vocational Training Centre visited our offices last week. Agnes is a former abductee and is now offering help and advice to the local community of Patongo.
She obtained a degree in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Makerere in Kampala. After she graduated she decided to apply what she had learnt and offer support to people that had undergone similar experiences during the civil war. Counselling was a sub-unit of her university studies but having been an adbuctee herself, she is able to draw from her own experiences to empathise with younger, stigmatised members of the community that need counselling and support.
Most importantly Agnes serves as an example to other young people affected by the civil war as she has been able to continue with her life. It was great to have her in the office and share her own experiences and about the impact the Vocational Training Centre will have in the community in Patongo. Former abductees are normally ostracised from society so building a centre that will serve as a place for them to gather and feel welcome is a sign that not all is lost and offers them hope.
The construction started in April 2011 and the center is planned to open in the spring of 2012.