A former child soldier in Uganda
Tens of thousands of children in northern Uganda have been victim to forced recruitment by the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army ( led by Joseph Kony)
They were abducted from home or from school. They experienced horrific abuses and suffered extreme hunger and thirst. They were forced to loot villages, kill civilians and fight the government army soldiers.
Girls as young as 12 were given as wives to the commanders. They were routinely raped. Many gave birth to children in captivity.
At the battle field, the child soldiers were put in the front line, causing many to be injured or killed. Any attempt to escape was punished with death. Those who did manage to run away during battle ended up in one of the rehabilitation centres.
I am Patrick Odong and I’m one of these former child soldiers. I was abducted from home in 2001, when I was 10. During fighting, I was hit in the mouth by a bullet. Ugandan government soldiers took me to the hospital. I was so seriously wounded that I could not talk, eat or drink. Doctors tied my tongue and gave me a stomach pump.
That is when I was found by Els De Temmerman, founder of Sponsoring Children Uganda An organisation that takes care of formerly abducted children by sending them back to school. It was my first time to meet a white person. I trusted her immediately. She took me to Belgium for an operation. The university hospital of Louvain agreed to reconstruct my chin. The operation took 19 hours and was largely successful.
But it took me two years to recover and return to school. In 2003 I was enrolled in the sponsorship programme. Belgian sponsors paid for my primary, secundary and university education I graduated in agriculture. Now I work as a farm manager for an NGO that aims to eradicate malnutrition in Uganda. I am one of the over 3,500 former child soldiers who got the opportunity to study through the sponsorship programme.
I was able able to build a future for myself and my family while improving the lives of other disadvantaged children.
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