CPA and Nairobi Chapel meet in Uganda
This story marks the moment in Africa Rising history when the organization identified the value of networking African organizations. In 2008, a youth group from Nairobi Chapel, a church in Kenya’s capital, had planned a retreat & outreach in the outskirts of Kampala in neighboring Uganda. The staff of the Concerned Parents Association (CPA), one of Africa Rising's organizations in northern Uganda, asked if their youth could join the Kenyan youth at their retreat.
The Kenyan and Ugandan youth spent two days on retreat sharing their stories and life experiences. Although their two neighbouring countries have a lot of similarities in their people & culture, it was the differences that united these two youth groups. Kenya had just emerged from the 2007-2008 post-election violence but Uganda was recovering from over two decades of war. The Ugandan girls were direct victims of war: each been abducted by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) from St. Mary’s Aboke High School in northern Uganda. They had a chance to tell their stories to the Kenyans.
The camp included fun with time for games, music, laughter and good Ugandan food. There were also very intense times for reflection, prayer, Bible study and sharing personal stories of God’s action in their lives. In one session, each of the youth shared a difficult situation they had gone through. The Kenyan youth were first They told stories of parents’ divorces, rejection, failed relationships, and financial difficulties. No experience could be dismissed as minor or shallow. When the Ugandan girls began to share their stories from years in captivity, however, the Kenyan youth were overwhelmed. It was hard for them to imagine all the suffering their new friends had endured.
The Aboke Girls have become a part of Ugandan history. Their story, though painful, will be re-told for generations to come. The LRA rebels attacked the Aboke Girl’s School on the night of 9th October 1996 taking away 139 girls into the dark jungle. After negotiation, 109 girls were released. The 30 remaining girls were forced to become ‘wives’ to top rebel leaders becoming mothers in their teens. Over a span of over ten years, five girls lost their lives, some escaped and others were miraculously released by their captors, taking home their children born in captivity. By 2007, only two of the girls could not be accounted for, nobody knew if they were dead or alive. Nine of the formerly abducted girls who attended the camp with the Kenyan youth had returned to school to recover an opportunity robbed from their teenage years.
It was the reaction of the Kenyan youth that led Africa Rising to find a new role of connecting Africans to other Africans. The Kenyans were shocked to know that their own age-mates living not too far from their own country had gone through such traumatic times. Not having experienced conflict before 2008, the Kenyans were exposed to the devastation of long-term war and learned to be thankful and to guard peace in their own country. The Ugandan youth had not spent time with other youth without having to hide their past. The camp was not only a safe environment to re-call their past but also a time to build new memories and make new friends.
After this interaction, a new program was birthed in which Africa Rising brought African leaders together so they could learn from one another. Amazing results were witnessed over the years as African leaders met under one roof to share development experiences in African grassroots communities.