The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) civil war forced the local Acholi tribe into internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, removing them from their lands and making them entirely dependent on food aid.
The war ends but the malnutrition, disease, and conflict leave hundreds of child-headed families. Orphans without any living relatives.
The government decrees the child-headed families must leave the IDP camps, which is all they have ever known. This leaves them homeless and with no sustainable food source.
In response to their needs, we built thirty-four brick and tin family homes in Padibe, the site of some of the fiercest fighting at the end of the war, where five of the families we support had lost their parents in the same night of fighting.
With shelter provided, we focused on making the families in Padibe agriculturally and financially self-sufficient. This involved clearing an acre of farmland per family, bringing in fast-growing crops, providing agricultural education, and supplying three chickens and three goats per family, allowing them to breed animals for protein and trading.
Close to our work in Padibe, in a place named Akobi, nine heads of child-led families committed suicide in response to the destitute conditions. We responded with emergency aid for the families, followed by replicating the self-sufficiency programme that had proven successful in Padibe for twenty-nine families in Akobi. The youngest family head was aged nine.
Having stabilised the situation of many of the local child-headed families, we moved into a longer term plan to develop the orphans with educational resources. We committed to supporting the build of a local school, known as Broadway Nursery and Primary School, in Padibe.
The first twenty-six children from our orphan families were sent to Broadway School through sponsorship by Isle of Man residents supporting DO.
In response to a major regional drought, we provided emergency aid for the 193 orphans who we were then supporting, in order to maintain their self-sufficiency. A further fourteen orphans were sponsored to attend Broadway Primary School and we added new toilet blocks and a formal kitchen space to improve hygeine. We also received a grant from the Isle of Man Government which allowed us to build an additional high-specification classroom block.
To date a lot of the focus was on primary education, but by this time some of the orphans were reaching an age at which they needed to begin learning advanced skills to bring the families above subsistence level. We sent twenty-four older orphans for vocational education and one to secondary education. We bought and cultivated seventy acres of prime agricultural land for Broadway School, to give the pupils there at least two substantial meals a day.
In response to a Ugandan Government policy of confiscating undeveloped land, to protect the families' properties we needed to expand their agricultural capacity significantly. We provided a Massey Ferguson tractor and secure storage, allowing them to develop 752 acres and plant 216 of them. Unfortunately, crops that year were devastated by the army worm and we again had to provide emergency agricultural support.
We bought a second tractor and have created two young farmers' cooperatives, headed by the older orphans. To protect their income and help them develop we have also created a village savings and loans association (VSLA). This is helping create a more sophisticated and robust local economy. The Broadway School has also been certified by the Ugandan Government and with an additional Isle of Man Government grant we have completed a multi-purpose hall. This allows the school to hold exams, opening up qualification options for the orphans and this year we will see fourteen orphans graduate to secondary education with a view towards tertiary education in the future. Eleven more orphans are going into vocational education, with our first plumber and first new teacher due to be qualified in 2019. We are also currently building teachers' accommodation in order to help attract even higher quality teachers to the region.
By 2022 we hope that the orphan families we have supported will be entirely self-sustaining. The last of our young orphans will have graduated from primary school with desirable qualifications, while the older orphans will have protected status for their land and will be farming it sustainably to produce both food and a healthy above-subsistence income. The local economy will be in a position to develop towards a more sophisticated model, leaving the region on a positive growth trend.
We aren't looking to provide aid forever - we have an end goal in sight and we are well along the way to achieving it.