“They told me that if I didn’t kill my brother now . . . they would kill me, Moses said. My brother kept yelling, ‘Do it . . . you will live . . . do it!’
Moses told me he was crying and kept saying that he couldn’t do it, but the soldiers were screaming at him and pushing the end of a gun hard into his head. Before he knew what happened, Moses had pulled the trigger and his brother was lying in the dirt.”
–Excerpt from Forgotten Children (2006). Order your free copy here.
Today, I’m in Gulu where the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has a history of terrorizing the children of Uganda. Their tactic is to kidnap young boys to fight in their rebel army and to use young girls as sex slaves. Part of the initiation process is to shame and humiliate each victim—to make them feel like they can never go home again.
They become walking ghosts. Taught to kill and to celebrate cruelty, these children were often scarred for life.
Several years ago, I witnessed the phenomenon known as “night commuting.” To escape the LRA, who would often steal children from their village homes in the night, thousands of children would walk for miles into nearby towns to sleep. I watched as row after row of children went by. Some were just toddlers. All were fearful for their lives. Many had lost hope.
I knew something had to be done . . . for the victims . . . for the survivors. For entire generations of Uganda’s children who were in danger of being lost forever.
We began building Homes of Hope for these children—places where healing could take place. Soon after, we realized that many of these children had missed years and years of schooling while they were being held captive by the LRA. Even if they were now safe, there was no way for them to succeed later in life without an education.
That’s when we started building trade schools, like the one I visited today—the Sandy Sansing Vocational School in Gulu. It’s a remarkable facility where over 1,200 students have already graduated and are pursuing successful careers in the surrounding community.
Students are able to learn lucrative trade skills like tailoring, welding, hairdressing/stylist skills, and mechanical repair. What a gift—to have the opportunity to become self-sufficient and help support your family as well. It’s an initiative that’s revolutionizing the communities and restoring hope to individuals.
Today was graduation day. Senior Vice President Tom Thompson and I delivered the commencement speech. What a celebration—150 students, many child mothers and former child soldiers were graduating today. Everyone was smiling. The excitement of the moment was so powerful . . . a testimony of what God can do in the life of a child that has experienced so much suffering.
Here’s a quick clip of the crowd celebrating at the graduation ceremony:
Watch Vocational Training Graduation in Gulu, Uganda on Vimeo
The vision for the vocational school is expanding to accommodate even more students. Right now, construction is taking place to provide two additional Homes of Hope to house more LRA-affected children. The new construction will double the size of the campus and will also include a multipurpose building, caregiver housing, a kitchen, and more.
I am so thankful for the sponsors of this project, the Nichols and Mariani families. The impact of these homes will be tremendous. Their generosity is changing lives.
Moses, the traumatized and forgotten little boy that I met years ago has grown to be a remarkable young man. I saw him again today and was able to hear about the healing that God has done in his life. Empowered to earn a living and to make an impact in his community, Moses is taking back what the LRA tried to steal years ago—his hope.
This is the very reason why World Help exists. We want to restore what poverty, evil, and suffering has attempted to take away. It’s the Moses’s of this world that we’re fighting for . . . children that the world has forgotten.
Thank you for partnering with World Help to make all of this possible. Your support is opening doors and giving us more opportunities to serve than ever before.
It’s days like today that I remember . . . it’s never too late for hope.
What a celebration! This graduating class brings the total alumni to 1,200 students.
Generous giving through Gifts of Hope, has allowed each student to receive tools for their trade upon graduation.
Construction on the new facilities is underway. Once completed, the lives of thousands more young people will be transformed.