"One of my most memorable exchanges during our week at SMK took place with a brother and sister I only spoke with once or twice. David and Oliva, like many of the SMK kids, were planning to go home in January. I asked David how long the trip took, and he told me six hours. ‘Will there be someone to pick you up?’ ‘Maybe.’ ‘If not will you walk home?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘How long will that take?’ ‘Two more hours.’
I came to Uganda with many questions, and left with many others. One question I struggled with is why so many of the kids at the orphanage had guardians – mothers in many instances. Why would a parent put a child in an orphanage? I figured that with all the hardship in Uganda, they just weren’t able to handle their kids, but I still struggled with the idea.
A disproportionately large number of kids at SMK are from the north, including many from Lira. If you have teenagers in your family, you may have experienced the viral craze earlier this year that relates to these kids -- Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army. A video about Kony by Jason Russell received more than 100 million views in a period of about six days in early 2012. It describes the devastation caused by Kony in northern Uganda. A few days later, the video was highly criticized because it seemed to suggest that Kony was still operating his army in northern Uganda when in fact he’d been gone for years.
Kony is no longer in Uganda, and the country is largely peaceful now. But the kids we met at SMK represent Kony’s very real and deeply tragic legacy of destruction. Many lost parents during Kony’s war. And a note little Oliva gave me when we left helped me better understand why she and her brother were in an orphanage, even with a parent still living:
Happy new year.
I am Oliva. How are you these days and how was life in Uganda and at SMK.
I think you enjoyed it very well.
I would like to tell you the story about my father. One day there was a war in 2005 up to 2006, and our father died in the war of 2006. We were at our aunt’s home. They took us there to protect us. When he died they called us and we go for the buriel. From there up to now we are staying with our mother. When our father died his people from their home came, and they took everything from our mother, starting from the land, house, animals and now she stays with her friend. She gave her a little land for digging…
I am 12 years old.
Let me hope that you will come back. Please write back
Oliva David’s sister’”