Celebrating the First Anniversary of YOLRED

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By Geoffrey Omony
Global Associate, Uganda

Greetings from Gulu, Uganda! On behalf of my colleagues here at Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED), I’m happy to share an update to our partners around the world.

Developing this report gave us a chance to reflect on the first anniversary of the launch of YOLRED that we celebrated in August. We have been reflecting on the relevancy of our programs and identifying what works well and what does not work well as a reintegration strategy for the war affected community. We hope that sharing our journey will help others who are working on issues affecting the former child combatants.

This attached report focuses on our activities of the past few months, but we will share a full report with the network at the end of the year. Watch the next newsletter for that report which will include information about a big event we are hosting in our community in Mid-December.

Thank you to our partners around the world who have been following the work of YOLRED. We hope you will share the work that YOLRED is in doing to directly address issues affecting ex-child-combatants. As the only organization designed and run by former combatants, YOLRED stands as an example that we returnees can contribute positively to our communities.

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In the attached report, you will learn about our progress over the past few month in providing support to former combatants. The progress is hard-earned, as the young people we support face serious difficulties:

- Many children born in captivity have no trace of their family, and consequently no sense of identity or belonging.
- Many of these children do not go to school because their parents can’t pay fees or no parent to pay.
- Female ex-combatants are face additional stigma because of being associated with LRA atrocities and sexual abuse.
- There is a consistent low economic status for former combatants.
- Rejection and social stigmatization endure for returning fighters.

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A participant in our programs, Lakot Jackline, sadly has to deal with many of these difficulties. Jackline was abducted as a child during the civil conflict with the LRA, but is now 39. The incredible trauma of her past and the stigma she faces today is compounded by her HIV positive status, making it very difficult to raise and care for her nine children.

Despite these difficulties, former combatants have made some great progress at the YOLRED center. She has benefitted greatly for our new music therapy programs which offers her a chance to heal and connect with others. In addition to Jackline, we recently helped two brothers who had been estranged to reconcile through our ESPERE forgiveness and reconciliation program.

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In addition to our programs here in Gulu, I was able to share the tools and methods of YOLRED with a global audience this year. This spring, I travelled with my colleague Arach Janet to participate in the 5th International Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children as part of a delegation led by Goldin Institute Founder Diane Goldin.

As the only organization designed and run by former combatants, YOLRED stands as an example that we returnees can contribute positively to our communities. Thank you to our partners around the world who have been following the work of YOLRED. We hope you will support and share the work that YOLRED is in doing to directly address issues affecting ex-child-combatants.

READ THE FULL REPORT

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