In Northern Uganda, Free the Slaves partner Friends of Orphans heals entire communities with their Peace Scout program.
The founder of Uganda’s Friends of Orphans, Ricky Anywar, was the 2008 recipient of the Harriet Tubman Freedom Award, given every year to exemplary organizations that work to create sustainable freedom in communities vulnerable to slavery.
Friends of Orphans (FRO) has become a Free the Slaves partner. And just this week, they sent us an update of their recent successes.
FRO works with the population in Pader District in Northern Uganda—survivors of child soldiering, abductions and other human rights abuses. Anywar was himself an orphaned, former child soldier, who created his organization to rehabilitate and support others.
Part of the services and programs FRO provides is a community-based, conflict resolution program. Survivors of child soldiering, captivity and forced marriage rebuild their lives through psychological counseling and education. They become economically independent through agricultural, income generating projects. And FRO has nurtured entire communities to become peace builders, by training survivors of war to become peace scouts—people who help mediate disputes. Since July, FRO scouts have assisted in the resolution of 130 conflict cases.
The FRO report says “Many [survivors] used to think that violence was the best way to solve conflict.” But now, community-based peace scouts help “sensitize the rest of the community,” and encourage mediation to resolve disputes. In the last few months, bicycles have been procured for every FRO peace scout (there are 45 in all)—greatly improving their ability to have face-to-face access to communities.
FRO shared the story of Okot David Oketa, a former abducted child soldier, who struggled with the trauma of his experiences—and found meaning stability through his work as an FRO peace scout. Here is his story:
Okot David Oketa is a peace scout from Lira Palwo Sub County, Ademi parish. He is handling disputes and incidence cases in 4 villages.
David is the chairperson of peace scouts in the sub county; he has reported 20 cases and reffered 10 in the last 2 months.
He is formerly abducted youth who lived in the bush for nearly 2 years. Before the project, David was a redundant drunkard youth who was always causing chaos and hooliganism in the village. In fact one day he was arrested for fighting over land with his own uncle.
Since David attended the training and started working as a peace scout, his life style has greatly changed. He no longer drinks alcohol during working hours, he is ever busy solving cases, reporting and referring some to the concerned authority. He calls bi-weekly meetings for the others to attend.
Communities now respect him, a thing that was not happening in his life before the project. He gets knowledge from various stake holders on how to resolve conflict, and as he reports he says the level of conflict in his area has gone down.