“Using counselling sessions, art and acting“, former abductees, child soldiers and child victims of war are being rehabilitated and reintegrated back into their communities in war-torn Uganda. The Children of War Center in Gulu, operated by World Vision Canada, has helped to rehabilitate more than 15,000 children. Many of the children arriving at the center exhibit post-traumatic stress symptoms. Says Dirk Booy, executive director of World Vision Canada, of the children at the center:
They come to us traumatized, stigmatized, some of them experienced signs of post-traumatic stress. The centre works with them on these issues helping them draw out their experiences and get back to a normal routine.
The decades long war in Uganda has produced a prodigious number of child soldiers; estimates range from a minimum of 25,000 to close to 60,000. Most have been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to serve as soldiers, laborers and sex slaves.
Endre Vestvik, CRN/Hope In Action – Nicole is ten years old. She was raped by rebel soldiers in DR Congo.
According to Booy, a combination of of modern science and traditional cleansing practices are essential to the children’s healing process. Says Marc and Craig Kielburger from Free the Children, “the process of rehabilitation and giving them a new life is complicated and requires personal and cultural forgiveness.” For example, there is the egg ceremony in Uganda.
The egg ceremony has a distinct purpose in acknowledging the foreign elements that crushed the community and the child. In addition, the child must jump over two twigs. The first, called the layibi, is used to open the granary, symbolizing a return to where one once ate. The second, from the opobo tree, is traditionally used to make soap. It represents cleansing.