The saucepan and the corn flour: Ugandan atrocities leave their mark
“We knew the rebels’ message was serious: If your teacher comes to school, tell him to bring a saucepan and the students to bring corn flour.” As a former child soldier told us this story, we listened, bewildered. Why was that message ‘serious’. What did the saucepan and corn flour mean?
His explanation was chilling. “Well, these guys are animals, you know. They were letting us know that if the teacher returned to the school, he would be killed and chopped up to cook. That’s why they said he should bring a saucepan. And the students were to bring corn flour so they could make a meal of it: the meat would be their teacher, the corn flour would provide their bread.” Cannibalisation was not uncommon among the rebels.
Chronicling the horrors of Northern Uganda soon becomes beyond one’s ability to process. Yet, for those who lived it, the young impressionable kids who faced the rebels, and were forced to join them, fight for them and face sexual abuse by them, one has to wonder how sanity can ever be found again.
The situation in Northern Uganda though, tragically, largely neglected by Joe Public, is supported by some of Global Hand’s participants. In the UK, a group of community volunteers, led by Pat Scholes, made contact with the Kampala Children’s Centre to see how they could help impacted kids. The Centre looks after 1000 kids who have been impacted by the war, by poverty or HIV/AIDS. This group collected educational, sport and musical needs, along with clothing, but did not know to ship their donation. Pat turned to the Red Cross for advice.
The Red Cross referred Pat to Global Hand UK since, together with our online matching, we also handle countless such calls, each week, in which we discuss possible solutions to dilemmas met by people in their humanitarian projects. We suggested Pat approach airlines for donated freight allowance, knowing that many of our network participants have found this a vital contribution to their work. Pat approached KLM, the airline concerned, and was given the needed luggage allowance for their entire group.
The educational supplies were welcomed by the teaching staff who found the provision overwhelming. The sports items were received even more eagerly by the children who didn’t want to take them off.
Too many children in Uganda have lived through too much pain: suffering of a kind no child should have to endure. Global Hand is delighted to take any steps, large or even small, that may help those children forget the horrors of the past and step, with greater confidence, into the possibilities of the future.
TIPS FROM GLOBAL HAND
Usually, Global Hand advises companies and larger NGOs in their response to global issues. There is, however, also a place, of course, for the individual traveller who wants to make the most of a travel opportunity to help out. For such a scenario, we suggest the following.
- Visit our Requests page to explore needs of particular projects around the world.
- Before choosing to collect or pack anything, make contact with the group to make sure that you have a clear understanding of what they need and what they are permitted to receive from you. Never assume you know what is needed because, even though well meaning, the desired help may be a hindrance. Make sure, as this group did, you are well informed.
- If you need transport support, approach an airline or shipping company. Often, such travellers are received graciously and supported in their endeavours.
- Individual travellers can find help from groups like
www.stuffyourrucksack.com as they provide guidelines on support for projects in countries you might be visiting.
- If you need help and do not see an obvious answer on Global Hand, feel free to make contact with us. We are always happy to discuss options regarding your project, whether large or small.