We were back at the village of Ogongora today. Some of the time was spent talking to people at the church – the photo above gives an impression of the surroundings. We drank tea and had food there too – I will write more about that another day.
Today I talked to three people who told me / us about the time in 2003 when they had to flee their villages during the occupation of the land by the LRA. One was our driver, Joseph, who told us some things, which I can’t really blog here, about how his uncle was killed. Then there was Pastor John (below). He described, from the villagers’ point of view, what it was like to have to flee because young people were being taken to be trained (if they survived, which many didn’t) as child soldiers. The people went to refugee camps, where sanitation was non-existent and there was no food. Some would come back to the village in the hope of harvesting their crops, but often those who did would be captured, tortured or killed. Hearing this story from three perspectives has brought home how much all of the people we are meeting have been through. When eventually they were able to come back to the village for good, the houses were burned, and they had to start again with nothing. This is where the PEP programme that I talked about yesterday comes in, to help people rebuild their lives. And this is why support for this kind of training for people in these situations is so important.
Part of the PEP programme has involved bringing the community together to decide on shared church goals. I heard from several of those responsible for working on these different projects. Most important (but not terribly photogenic) is the plan to drill a bore hole so that villagers do not have to walk a long way for water (and the water isn’t clean – 20 children a year die in the locality from diarrhea). A piece of land has been given for the purpose, some money has been raised, but there is now a wait for government money to come through. Other longer-term projects include a health centre and a new road. But in the next year or two it is hoped that a new church building with brick walls and a metal roof will replace the straw-roofed building that I have pictured above. Bricks (below) are being made by people in the village – this shows them in their pre-firing state. This is another good example of people doing things for themselves rather than waiting to be helped.
In the afternoon (actually, still before lunch, which happened at about 4pm) we visited Pastor Peter (below), who looks after a neighbouring church that has also undertaken the PEP programme. I suppose this emphasises that although we have seen one particular village, there are many many more where the same process is taking place. In the picture Peter is showing us the crops he has planted.
A final picture (below): children having their photo taken. We have taken many pictures of the children – they absolutely love it, and then love to see themselves in the picture on the back of the camera. You get the impression that they have rarely seen a camera before, though other Tearfund visitors have been, so I suspect we are not the first. Liz and Bex have many more pictures. We have also given them bubbles and balloons – great excitement in both cases.
I have entitled this post ‘hard lives’. It just seemed to me that these people have seen and experienced so much. I can’t really begin to imagine it. And yet they remain,on the whole and as far as I can tell, so happy and so hopeful.
Additional note: I’m aware that today my descriptions / photos are mainly of men. Liz and Bex talked to some women this morning – keep an eye on their blogs as I suspect they will write more about that soon (and click those links for more pictures of kids pulling faces). Oh, and a reminder – you can see all of our updates via the webpage tearfund.org/dave.
I have posted a set of my photos from Uganda on Flickr if you’d like to see them. They are mostly the ones posted on the blog, but there are a couple of extras.
Tomorrow we go back to the village, for the final time, for a church service. I suspect it will be unlike anything else I have experienced. Then, for the two remaining days in Soroti we will travel to two other villages to see what is happening there.