Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Gulu Trip report to the Board of Shared Blessings


In the service of our Lord Jesus Christ and on behalf of Audrey Foster, the Founder and Executive Director of Shared Blessings, I travelled to Gulu, Uganda from August 1st, 2009 through August 15th, 2009 for the principal purpose of meeting and visiting with Rev. Otto Naptali of the Keziya Orphanage Home (KOH) which is sponsored by Shared Blessings. (See: .) This was my third trip to Uganda but this was my first time meeting with Rev. Naptali and my first time to Gulu. My first two trips to Uganda were both on behalf of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. (See: .) I initially traveled to Uganda in February, 2007 to familiarize myself with Habitat for Humanity of Uganda (See: ) and with the local customs and culture of Uganda. My second trip to Uganda was in August, 2007 where I returned to lead a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Team from our church in the building of a Habitat home in the Mukono District near Kampala for a family in need. This third trip to Uganda was on behalf of Shared Blessings (See: ) of Modesto, CA and was in part to implement the process for a new program for Shared Blessings called “Medkids”. The vision for the Medkids program is to provide critical medical care and foster care here in the USA to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s) in need of complicated medical procedures as a result of injuries sustained during the war with the LRA. Such complicated medical procedures would not normally be made available to these OVC’s while in Uganda.


Rev. Otto Naptali and I had a number of agenda items to cover on behalf of Audrey Foster and Shared Blessings. The agenda items that we intended to cover during our visit were:
- Meeting the leaders and staff of Keziya Orphanage and learning about the operation of the orphanage.
- Meeting the local leaders within the Gulu community.
- Visit the IDP camps within the Gulu community.
- Visit the Beekeeping operation of Keziya Orphanage and take pictures of the operation with the children.
- Visit the Stationary Store and take pictures with the children.
- Review the Business Initiative program with Otto and encourage his support toward this program.
- Determine if Douglas Olam should be substituted in place of Dennis Okeny as the sponsored student by the Bible Study Group as Dennis Okeny has recently received his certificate.
- Take two pictures of as many of the sponsored orphans as possible, one with their name tag and one without their name tag.
- Meet with Francis Okot and his family toward initially implementing the Medkids program and to refine the processes involved with Otto and the local leaders.

The following is a review of our results with each of the above agenda items in greater detail:

Meeting the leaders and staff of Keziya Orphanage and learning about the operation of the orphanage.

Rev. Otto and Filder were extremely gracious, generous, and tireless hosts throughout my visit with them in Gulu. They went way out of their way to make me feel very welcome and honored throughout my time with them. We initially met the night I arrived on August 3rd for dinner at the Acholi Inn where I was staying and discussed there the agenda items for the coming week together. I was traveling with my dear friend and brother in Christ from Kampala, Michael Ssansa Musoke, who was also treated royally by Rev. Otto and Filder and the entire staff at the Keziya Orphanage Home. Michael and I met and became good friends during my Habitat build in Mukono in 2007 and he insisted on driving me to Gulu upon his learning of this trip. I was extremely grateful for Michael’s driving me and he ended up staying with me the entire week and drove us around Gulu and back to Kampala at the end of the week. Michael is the Founder and Executive Director of GIGE in Kampala.
(See: ). GIGE seeks to give a quality boarding school education in Kampala to poorer girls from rural districts in Uganda, such as Masindi, who otherwise might not receive any education at all. Michael and his wife Maria are doing a remarkable work with GIGE in greatly impacting the lives of these poor girls.
Rev. Otto Naptali and the Keziya Orphanage Home has four operational locations with the main location being a grouping of five mud and thatch roof huts on about an acre of land just off the main road a few kilometers outside of Gulu. This is Rev. Otto and Filders’ home which they relocated to from their farm when the LRA rebels were terrorizing the area. There appears to be about 65 orphan children under their care from toddlers to young adults with most being away at boarding school during the school year in Gulu, Kampala and Masindi. It appeared that the only sponsoring group for this orphanage is Shared Blessings. The second location is nearby and is located on about four acres of land upon which has been built a dormitory for housing the children. Otto is seeking to move the children to this site as soon as funds are available to complete the dormitory which appears to be about 80% complete. A small portion of the land at this location is cultivated with vegetables with the remainder yet to be improved. The dormitory appears to be in need of plumbing, electrical, carpentry for the windows and doors and furnishings for the rooms. The third location is a small office located closer to town where the Stationary Store is located and the fourth location is several kilometers away where the beekeeping operation is located. We met with Otto and Filder’s eldest daughter, Florence Monica, who is a local school teacher. She lives with Otto and Filder and has her own hut. We also met Otto’s brother, Martin, who assists and lives on site as well as Charles Ojara who is Otto’s right hand man in running the orphanage and who works for little or no pay. Dennis Okeny also appears to be a young leader with the orphanage and it appears that Dennis and Charles may both reside in a small room next to the office near town. Joseph Oloya and Douglas Olam were also a young men present. It seems that the younger adults of KOH have taken on certain responsibilities for the running of the orphanage.

Meeting the local leaders within the Gulu community.

Rev. Otto made it a point to introduce me to many of the local leaders within the Gulu community that would interact with either KOH or Medkids. We met with Rev. John Ocholo, the headmaster of Gulu Primary School where 22 of the KOH orphans are currently attending primary school. Rev. Ocholo spent a great deal of time with us explaining the various operations of the school and their most urgent needs. Rev. John is a dynamic and gifted leader who rebuilt the school based upon Nehemiah, Chapter 2: 17 to 18. When he came to the school it was in shambles and over run by hooligans. He built a wall around the school and partnered with agencies of the EU to rebuild certain buildings and the campus looks impressive. Rev. John has planted many fruit trees and vegetables and has much room for sports and for additional growth. While visiting the school, all of the KOH orphans came out of their classes and we met together with Rev. Otto and Rev. John and we extended greetings and encouragement to them from their sponsors at Shared Blessings. Gulu Primary School was started in 1914 and was the first school in the Northern Region of the country. It currently has 1561 students and 86 blind students. It is the only school for the blind in all of Northern Uganda. The needs of these poor blind students are great and in particular they are:
-Blank Braille paper – lots of it and needs to be shipped to them as there is none within the country.
-Braille embosser – enables them to print most anything for the students in Braille.
-Thermal form photocopier for the blind.
-Bunk beds, mattresses, blankets, pillows, sheets and mosquito netting.
These blind students have no sponsors and in most cases have been abandoned by their parents to the school. They did not appear to have any audio tools available but they did not ask for them. Their plight appears to me to be particularly pathetic and in need of much love.

The contact information for this school is:

Rev. John Ocholo, Gulu Primary School, P.O. Box 598, Gulu, Uganda, East Africa.
Rev. John’s cell: 256-772-296-9226, email:

Rev. John is also on the board of directors of “CIFORD” or Community Initiative for Rural Development and he gave me the by-laws of the organization which are enclosed here.
This organization seeks to improve the Gulu community and the most urgent needs expressed by Rev. John Ocholo for their community are:

-The community of Gulu urgently needs a high quality vocational school. There currently is no significant quality vocational training in the area and many of the children and young adults of Gulu need training in the trades to find employment. The Ministry of Education has vocational curriculum readily available but what is urgently needed is a commitment toward implementing a quality program. There are buildings available, teachers available, and curriculum available, but funding and organizational support is lacking. The trades that should be considered priority are: Plumbing, Carpentry, Masonry, Sewing, and Motor vehicle repair. Perhaps Invisible Children or Watoto church would be a good community partner for implementing such a trade school in Gulu.
-They are seeking assistance with quality housing reconstruction within their district. There has been much loss and displacement over the 20 years of war with the LRA and much local housing has been destroyed. They really need assistance with building housing back on their farmland which was destroyed by the LRA. I met with Habitat for Humanity of Uganda in Kampala and expressed this urgent need from Gulu. They assured me that they will be re-entering Gulu in a big way and are partnering with World Vision and others toward implementing a holistic remedy for the housing need in Gulu in a meaningful way. They are however, still several months away from implementing their housing plan into Gulu.
-Their economy is based largely upon agriculture and much of their agriculture industry was destroyed by the war with the LRA. Their livestock was mostly destroyed during the war and their stocks need to be replenished. In addition to livestock, they are also urgently in need of seeds, tools, and farm machinery.
-They are also in dire need of tuition sponsors for their better students to go onto university.

We also met with Chairman Mao (his wife’s name is Naomi) who is the elected Chairman of the District of Gulu. He is a dynamic and charismatic leader who is dearly loved by many of the people throughout Northern Uganda as his election victory was reportedly a landslide. He was serving in Parliament in Kampala but resigned to seek election to serve the people within his home district. He has traveled to the USA several times and was recently in the East Bay just a couple of months ago. Chairman Mao was interested in and supportive of the “Medkids” program and encouraged us to pursue it as there is much need in the area for such a program. Chairman Mao’s cell phone number is: 256-772-222-246, email: He encouraged us to contact Jimmy Roots at Community Development and Otto agreed to take care of this.
We met with Jared White, The Programs Director for Invisible Children in Gulu. Jared is an impressive young man from San Diego who has a great deal of responsibility (staff of 90) at the IC office in Gulu. His schedule is quite full with not much room to take on any additional responsibilities or tasks for outside organizations. He thought “Medkids” should make every effort to seek medical care for the OVC’s in need within Uganda first before seeking medical visa’s for the children.
We also worshipped at Watoto Church in Gulu on Sunday and met the Senior Pastor there whose name I did not write down. This is an Evangelical church which is an extension of the main church in Kampala. They are a vibrant community of younger, “middle class” Ugandans who are quite active in the rebuilding of their communities and their country. Both Chariman Mao and Jared White attend this church among many other Christian community leaders. We drove several kilometers out of Gulu to visit the Watoto Orphanage community that they have been building since October, 2008. Their model and their execution is very impressive. They have secured a few hundred acres of land and to date have already built three circular communities of nine homes each and have started in building a primary and secondary school on site. Each home houses four girls and four boys along with a house mother living on-site. The buildings are cinder block with excellent construction materials and quality construction throughout. The bedrooms are nicely appointed and each house has a sitting room, a dining room, a fully stocked kitchen and a bathroom. Each home is also adopted by a house father and a cell group from Kampala that sponsors each home. It is a remarkably healthy and holistic design and the children on-site were beaming as a result. Rev. Otto stated he didn’t sleep the night after visiting this Watoto orphanage.

There is also another excellent looking orphanage compound in Gulu called Children’s Village sponsored by the UK but we did not have the time to visit this orphanage.

We also met with the following local civic leaders:
-Rose Myapolo, L.C. V Councillor, Gulu District, Ongako sub-county, cell: 077-64-8840, email:
-Kenneth Nyello, L.C. V Chief Councillor, Gulu District, cell: 0712-025-213, email:
-Cohen Opira, Teacher at the Police Primary School, cell: 077-33-7240, email:
Each of the above three stressed the urgent need for a high quality vocational school for the Gulu District.

Visit the IDP camps within the Gulu community.

We visited the IDP camps within the Gulu community and toured their areas. These camps were set up to more easily protect the people from the LRA. With the people in a central location the Ugandan Army could better protect them from the LRA. Many in these camps have been gradually returning to their farm lands since 2006. However, many of their elders have died in the camps and the children are not clear on their farmland boundaries. Thus the local courts are chocked full of boundary disputes as the IDP’s are moving home only to find others squatting on their farmland. Many have chosen to remain in the camps as they either have no place to go or have built up a community there and have decided to stay. The people remaining within these camps do appear to be the poorest of the people that we came across on this trip.

Visit the Beekeeping operation of Keziya Orphanage and take pictures of the operation with the children.

We drove several kilometers out of Gulu through some very difficult terrain for our vehicle to pass through to get to the KOH Beekeeping Operation located upon Rev. Otto Naptali’s family farm of around 600 acres. Otto’s older brother, Amitayo Okeny, lives on the farm currently and it is from this farm that Otto and Filder relocated to their present location to seek better protection against the LRA. We saw a number of acres under cultivation on the farm with a wide variety of produce such as potatoes, rice, wheat, beans, sim sim, corn, millet, Sorghum, mango, and banana. The beehive operation currently has three locations spread throughout the farm with a total of 30 beehives. Their goal is to build it to 100 beehives. Each hive costs about 10,000 UGS and the transportation of 20 hives to the farm costs about 60,000 UGS. A 12 ounce bottle of honey will retail for around 3,500 UGS so this operation will be a significant revenue producer for the orphanage in the years to come. Charles Ojara, Jasper Otim and Samual Odokonyero and the older boys in the orphanage appear to run this operation and they have a hut to stay in on-site as needed as the location is quite a ways from the town. They trap animals on the farm too as needed and prepare and cook the meat that they trap.

Visit the Stationary Store and take pictures with the children.

The stationary store is located within the KOH office nearer the town of Gulu where Otto keeps his office. Dennis Okeny appears to live here at the office and he runs the stationary store which is quite small and sparsely stocked. It is not clear to me that this is actually a very active enterprise but it is available for those within the community that may need some supplies from time to time. There appear to be competing stores readily available for materials such as these. Dennis recently obtained his Computer Certificate and has set up a computer work station for the office. Unfortunately, the monitor he is using is totally useless and he has no printer. The two CPU’s he has set up appear to be Pentium 3’s and are viable machines. Dennis and KOH could really use either a laptop or at the very least a good monitor and a printer for their office. Dennis would very much like to go on to obtain his Diploma in Information Technology and he is seeking a sponsor for his continuing education fees.

Review the Business Initiative program with Otto and encourage his support toward this program.

Rev. Otto and I reviewed and discussed the Business Initiative program available for those young adults who are transitioning out of the orphanage and into life on their own. The Business Initiative program offers to provide micro financing for these young entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses. The process involved is for the young adult and Otto to complete a form briefly describing their business plan and their startup capital needs for review and approval by the Shared Blessings board. Otto agreed to forward these applications to Audrey as the opportunities arise for certain young adults. It appeared to me that Otto may not have the available time to take on a significant mentoring role in these individual business startups. For this program to succeed it may be appropriate to locate and provide a business mentor to each of these young entrepreneurs as they start up their individual businesses. Otto appears to be more of the mindset and suited to the tending of businesses established on behalf of KOH for revenue production toward KOH such as the beekeeping operation.

Determine if Douglas Olam should be substituted in place of Dennis Okeny as the sponsored student by the Bible Study Group as Dennis Okeny has recently received his certificate.

Rev. Otto advised that if he had to choose one student to support between the two, he would choose to now support sponsoring Douglas Olam toward his achieving his Journalism Diploma as Douglas has no certificate or diploma at this time. Dennis has achieved at least a certificate in Computer Technology which he can use for his advancement. However, Dennis has a strong desire to achieve his Diploma in Computer Technology which requires an additional two years of studies. I’ve enclosed a brochure from Dennis’ school with the estimated tuition fees for his ongoing study.
I was impressed by both of these fine young men. They both appeared intelligent, articulate, hard working with strong desires to succeed. My recommendation to the board would be to try to find a way to sponsor both of these young men in their desire for advanced education and additionally to provide Dennis with either a laptop or a new monitor/printer for the KOH office.

Take two pictures of as many of the sponsored orphans as possible, one with their name tag and one without their name tag.

We were successful in taking a number of pictures of the Shared Blessings sponsored children both with their name tag and without. These photos are enclosed for you in the attached flash drive. A few of the children were not present for the photo shoot as they were in the middle of exams in Gulu and could not get away from school for the photos. Additionally, KOH has students attending school in Masindi and in Kampala and these students were still away at school and their pictures could not be taken. We believe that we have the names of each of the students who were away at school.

Meet with Francis Okot and his family toward initially implementing the Medkids program and to refine the processes involved in this program with Otto and the local leaders.

Rev. Otto, my friend Michael Ssansa Musoke, and myself, spent the majority of our time together in Gulu focused on the implementation of the Medkids program for Shared Blessings. We started with Francis Okot and his specific medical needs and current situation and sought to obtain approval from his guardians and from the local medical community to proceed toward obtaining a medical visa for Francis. We first met on August 6th, 2009 with Justine Ongon (and his wife), Francis’ uncle and legal guardian. Francis initially lived with his uncle but recently relocated to live with his grandmother as he became too much of a burden to his uncle due to the uncle’s medical condition. Justine Ongon is a teacher but has TB of the spine and his 2 lower vertebrae have been essentially eaten away by the disease rendering him practically immobile. He has 11 children with the oldest (Patrick) being 22 and the second oldest (Omar) being 19. Justine was receiving support from his brother, a local policeman, who unfortunately just recently died within the past week. Justine gave his approval for us to proceed with applying for a medical visa for Francis and greatly encouraged us with this program. Justine did request that we provide some assistance in some manner to him and his family due to their great need.
We tried for a few days and finally met with Dr. Agel Yoventino Akii, the Medical Superintendent at the Ministry of Health at Gulu National Referral Hospital (card attached). He also agreed that “Medkids” was a much needed program within the community and was very encouraging and helpful toward assisting us. He quickly directed us to one of his doctors with instructions to assist us who in turn directed us to the appropriate plastic surgeons at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. This doctor felt that he could not give us his written approval to apply for a medical visa as the medical services that Francis appeared to require were potentially available in Kampala.
We concurrently tried over the course of a few days to meet with Dr. Santo Jax (email: ) of St. Mary’s Hospital – Lacor in Gulu. Dr. Jax is a friend of Rev. Otto Naptali. ( See: ). Dr. Jax reviewed and considered our program and our request and stated that he would give us the letter that we had requested. He eventually requested that we arrange to have Francis brought into the hospital for a meeting and then he instead referred us to Dr. Martin Ogwang, the Administrative Director of the Hospital. We tried but never actually met with Dr. Martin Ogwang who I eventually spoke with on the phone (Dr. Martin’s cell: 0772-593901) about Francis and the Medkids program and he referred us to the plastic surgeons at Mulago Hospital in Kampala stating that he could not give us the letter that we were requesting. The doctors in Mulago Hospital that we were referred to are: Dr. Sentongo, Dr. Kalindi, Dr. Ron Khmigi, and Dr. Alanyo. All are located in Ward 2A – Plastics – at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. There is also a plastic outpatient clinic there where we could take Francis. They would need to meet with Francis and diagnose his condition and determine if the appropriate course of treatment were available to him at their hospital or perhaps at another hospital in Kampala.
Prior to my return to the states, I met in Kampala with our dear friend, the Rt. Rev. Dr. D. Zac Niringiye, Assistant Bishop of the Kampala Diocese for the Church of Uganda. He introduced me to the newly elected Bishop of the Gulu Diocese for the Church of Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Johnson Gakumba. Cell: 256-772-601-421, email: Bishop Johnson is an extremely capable and qualified leader and is a Godly and humble man. He was supportive of the Medkids program and encouraged us to proceed as there is much need within his district for such a program. He advised that there are four hospitals in Kampala where Francis and the other children could potentially be taken for a review and a diagnosis and where a letter may eventually be obtained for purposes of requesting a medical visa. These four hospitals in Kampala are:
-Children’s Hospital – run by CURE an American organization.
-Paragon Hospital – run by a Frenchman who Bishop Johnson knows well.
-Mulago Hospital – see above for contact names there.
-Kampala International – Bishop Johnson has contacts here as well.
Both Bishop Johnson of Gulu Diocese and Bishop Niringiye of Kampala Diocese encouraged us with the Medkids program as there was evident need both for the medical care that the child would receive but also for the spiritual gifts that God would give through the child to the community that would receive him or her. However, they both greatly encouraged us to seek first to treat the children within Uganda first and then only consider removing them overseas if only absolutely necessary to receive the needed medical care. After my time in Uganda pursuing the implementation of the Medkids program I agree completely with the Bishops recommendation here. Medkids should seek first to secure the needed medical care for the OVC’s in question within Uganda (Kampala) first and then after all options are exhausted, seek to apply for a medical visa to seek medical treatment from outside of the country.

We finally met up with Francis Okot at his school; the Keyo Primary School located several kilometers outside of Gulu near an IDP camp in the Amuru Disrict and has 1271 students from P1 to P7. Rev. Otto Naptali taught school here for 8 years and his wife Filder taught school here for 17 years. Francis was in one of Filder’s classes. The headmaster for this school is Mr. Derick Lamto who is quite a remarkable man. He was shot by the LRA and took two bullets into his back, his left arm was crushed and he was left in a burning vehicle and given up for dead. He spent six months in the hospital recovering and then went back to teaching at the school for little pay as he had nowhere else to turn. His email: , cell: 256-777-361993. Mr. Lamto wrote us a letter of recommendation for Francis to participate in the Medkids program which we have enclosed here. Interestingly, it was here at the Keyo Primary school location back in 1904 where missionaries first introduced Christianity into the Northern Uganda region through the Anglican Church Missionary Society.
It was here at the school that we learned that Francis (grade P2-9years old) was the youngest of 6 or 7 children. His sister Mercy (grade P3 – 11 years old) was with him at the school that day but the other siblings were not present. All of these siblings may be living with the grandmother where Francis is presently staying. Francis appeared to be healthy in every sense with the exception of his right arm and hand. He did appear to have a rather large head for a child of his size. Both Francis and his sister Mercy appeared to be quite impoverished and rather unclean but otherwise healthy. They both were reported to be good, attentive students with average grades by their teacher and the headmaster. The teacher stated though that Francis does get quite a bit of teasing from the other children due to his deformity.
Also located at this school is the Keyo Community Polytechnic. This is a small vocational school located on the grounds with 127 students and 5 teachers. They teach tailoring, carpentry, joinery, and masonry. They have a rough assortment of donated tools and manual sewing machines. They initially had a British widow as their sponsor but her sponsorship is reportedly coming to an end or has ended. They have a good building but appear to be in need of better quality tools and funding for materials, supplies and teacher salaries. The approximate cost to run the school is roughly 1 mil. UGS per month.

Finally, upon my return to Kampala I met with a consul representative in the United States Embassy at Kampala. He advised that medical visas are awarded on a regular basis and that what we are seeking to achieve with Francis is not out of the ordinary. He advised that once all the meetings are held and all the appropriate documents are received, a decision is made immediately and the medical visa can be issued on the spot or within 24 hours. He advised that the procedure involves securing at least the following documentation:

-Download and complete the Medical Visa application from the Embassy website and use the on-line process to request an appointment for the visa application review.
-The child seeking the medical visa must have a valid Ugandan passport along with one passport photo.
- The child must be present at the medical visa application review meeting in Kampala.
-The child’s Ugandan guardians must be present at the medical visa application review meeting. I explained to him the medical condition of Francis’ uncle and he advised that possibly a letter from the uncle would suffice but that it is preferable to have the guardians present.
-A letter from Ugandan doctors or medical facility stating that the medical treatment required is not available to the OVC within Uganda.
-A letter from doctors in the USA stating that the medical treatment the child is seeking is available and is fully paid for.
-Financial documents showing how the medical treatment in the USA will be paid for and how the OVC will be supported while in the USA.
-Documents reflecting the validity of the foster family that would be caring for the OVC while in the USA. It would be ideally preferable for a member of the foster family to be present at the medical application review meeting in Kampala and to potentially escort the OVC to the USA.
-Payment of the medical visa application fee of $131 dollars.
-Other documents as required by the visa application itself (attached) and that may be requested during the medical visa application review meeting.

I envision the Medkids process involved to be one of leaders within the Gulu community alerting Otto of an OVC in need of medical care and requesting application to the Medkids program. Otto would complete the initial interview with the OVC and forward to Audrey the completed one page Medkids application form. From here arrangements would need to be made for the OVC to meet with the appropriate doctors in Kampala for review, diagnosis and then either treatment in Kampala or referral to the USA for medical treatment whereby they would write the letter required for the medical visa application. If treatment is to take place in Kampala, Medkids would be required to fund the treatment, the aftercare and the transportation. If treatment were to be provided in the USA, then Medkids would secure the necessary appointments and documents required by the US Embassy as outlined above. If Medkids is to proceed it would be quite beneficial to seek out a trusted partner in Kampala that could assist with the many arrangements and appointments that would be required there to accomplish this program.

Please contact me if there are any questions regarding any of the above information or if you or your organization would like to directly respond to any of the urgent needs outlined in this report.

In service to our Lord Jesus Christ,

Terry Dwyer, email:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Northern Uganda Reading List

Here is a Northern Uganda Reading List taken from Chris Blattman's blog - See: This is my favorite blog regarding Northern Uganda.

"A northern Uganda reading list

I am often asked for recommended reading on the war in northern Uganda. The literature is vast, but a few works on culture, politics and history stand out.
For history and analysis of the war, this ACORD volume presents the evolution of the war (and previous attempts at peace) from the perspective of numerous Ugandans. Also very good is the background material in this report by Tim Allen.
This report from the Refugee Law Project (RLP) at Makerere University provides another fine analysis of the causes of violence in Uganda. Check out the RLP website for dozens of contributions on displacement and war in Uganda. Its director, Chris Dolan, has written extensively about Uganda, but only a few of his works (like this one) seem to be online.
Some excellent books are also available. Heike Behrend’s account of Alice Lakwena, a spiritual and rebel precusor to Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, is a must read. Sverker Finnstrom’s account of life under displacement is also excellent. The more time I spend in northern Uganda, the more insightful I find his writing.
I will save a full listing of the human rights, NGO and other gray literature for another time. But my own reports and work on Uganda (with Jeannie Annan, Dyan Mazurana, and Khristopher Carlson) are available on the Survey of War Affected Youth website.
For Acholi cosmology and traditional forms of coping and healing, five authors, including my friend and colleague Ron Atkinson, recently collaborated on an excellent short book on the subject.
Erin Baines has also been working with Acholi religious leaders on processes of community truth-telling in Acholiland as well as traditional processes of justice and reconciliation.
On less traditional forms of justice, Tim Allen has a short book on the International Criminal Court’s intervention in Uganda. He makes a convincing case for a more formal system of justice and accountability. Adam Branch also has very provocative views on the ICC in Uganda.
Intelligent political analysis of the Lord’s Resistance Army is scarce, but a few notable contributions exist (in addition to Allen’s and Finnstrom’s contributions above). For instance, some excellent papers on the logic of LRA violence and organization have been by Doom and Vlassenroot, van Acker, and Branch.
Mareike Schomerus has recently written about the LRA in Sudan. Mareike has had unprecedented access to the LRA in recent years, but unfortunately most of her work has yet to be published. Look for early warnings on this blog, as her work is bound to be interesting.
Tim Allen and Koen Vlassenroot are also editing a book on the LRA, with contributions from many of the authors mentioned above. Drafts may be available later this year. My own chapter (with my wife, Jeannie Annan) is here. We focus on the nature and logic of LRA child recruitment.
For current news and updates on the war, peace talks, and regional security, the Uganda Conflict Action Network and Resolve Uganda blogs are good sources of daily information. Both offer RSS news feeds.
Finally, one of my collaborators, Nathan Fiala, has scanned and posted resources for learning the Acholi language.
As I said, this list is only partial, and omits a number of topics and authors. If there are any special requests (e.g. gender, displacement, economic activities, etc.) please leave a comment. "

Above taken from:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Many updates to follow upon my return

I am traveling back to the States now but will be updating this Blog regularly in the days and weeks ahead as a means of recording and communicating the many events that took place over the course of the past two weeks. Please continue to check into this blog from time to time in the weeks ahead as much more to come.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


The people of Gulu have been through more than most people could possibly bear. They suffered dearly under the terrible reign of Idi Amin as he hated the Acholi people who are the dominant tribe in the Gulu area. He had his thugs carry out horrible atrocities among these people in the Northern region of Uganda. Then for 20 more years these people have suffered under the terrorism of Joseph Kony and his lawless thugs in the LRA. They operated ruthlessly throughout the Gulu area and the entire Northern Uganda region. Taking children as they slept or walked to school, or played on the streets and they turned them into child soldiers. The LRA trained these kids by making them kill other innocent people to turn them into heartless killers. Kony and his thugs repeatedly kidnapped women and raped them and turned them into their sex slaves and often killed or maimed them when they were through with them. One of the young men I met at Keziya Orphanage was a child soldier and was forced to kill or be killed. He escaped and has written his story which I am bringing back with me to seek a publisher for his story. He is an impressive young man who desperately wants to go into Journalism and is in dire need of a sponsor for his education expenses. He sleeps on a mat on a dirt floor in a mud and straw hut here as does most everyone in the area.

In addition to Amin and Kony the area has been ravaged by disease: Ebola, Malaria, Cholera, AIDS, the list goes on. Many people here suffer from malnutrition due to the collapse of the farming system in this agricultural based economy. The education system has collapsed, families have disintegrated, businesses destroyed, infrastructure in dire need of repair after years of neglect and precious few resources to re-develop. Yet their faith remains strong - unbelievably so. They worship, praise and give thanks to God every chance they get - it is deeply humbling and Holy to be among these terrific people.

People have been leaving the IDP camps set up near Gulu to go back to their homes and to their property. Unfortunately, without any organization with the resettling, this has caused great strife amongst neighbors as territorial disputes are now erupting over their properties and the police station and courts are full of these cases presently. A surprising number of people still remain in the IDP camps as they have lived there for so long and they have built a community there and have chosen to remain. The conditions in these camps are difficult at best and much improvement in sanitation, health systems, education, housing and food are needed.

Many of the people resettling onto their lands find that their homes have been destroyed as the LRA burnt homes to the ground as they moved through the area. I saw many burned out homes and buildings through the Gulu area. Additionally, the people returning are often weak from hunger, or they are infirm or impoverished and they cannot rebuild their homes. Help is urgently needed here for homebuilding assistance and for an improvement in the quality of the housing in general. It is time for aid agencies like Habitat for Humanity to return to Gulu and to step up their commitment to this region which was one of the first areas Habitat built in when Millard started the organization. Gulu needs Habitat and other home building agencies in a big way now.

The agricultural industry has been decimated. When farmers are not able to farm for any extended period of time, crops die off, seeds die off, soil overgrows and farmers need to start from scratch. Livestock was essentially killed and eaten by the rebels throughout the region and stocks have been depleted. The farmers here urgently need, seeds, tools, appropriate farming machinery, restocking of their livestock and microfinance loans to start up their farms again. The lack of farming and the current drought conditions have caused food shortages throughout the area and governmental aid agencies are needed to supply food to the area until the farming industry can recover. Farmers need to visit here to learn how they can assist these farmers.

Education has been deeply impacted as the students and teachers have been under immense stress for a very long time. They value and try so hard at their academics yet the difficulties of life simply overwhelm their abilities at times. They work with such meager means it is astonishing to me that the students learn anything in their school environments. Yet - these amazingly dedicated teachers and administrators here continue to teach their kids day after day and few of them make it on to university. Schools need all kinds of supplies from paper and pens to books to sponsors for tuition payments. Educators need to visit here to see where they can assist. One headmaster I met with was ambushed by the LRA and shot up (took two bullets into his back) and had his left arm crushed in several places and left for dead. He spent six months in the hospital and then returned to work for precious little pay to continue to teach his kids. There are stories like that in every school here.

This is a beautiful region inhabited by beautiful people with gentle spirits who have been tormented over a long period of time. Healing and restoration will take time and a collected dedicated effort by those who are committed to bringing quality of life back to this region is needed. There are many shining bright stars here such as Chairman Mao, Watoto Church and Orphanage, Children's Village, Rev. John Ocholo, Rev. Otto Naptali, and Jared White at Invisible Children to name a few. More on them in a later report.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

An amazing few days here in Gulu

We've had an amazing few days here in Gulu meeting so many people of the community and learning much about the Keziya Orphanage operation and their most urgent needs. Meeting these children has been a humbling experience as we hear the unbelievable tragic stories of their sufferings at the hands of the LRA and other circumstances such as AIDS. They exude astounding resilience and even joy in the face of horrific circumstance of life . One young woman was captured by the LRA and dragged off to be repeatedly gang raped. She became pregnant and was eventually rescued by the Uganda army. Both her and her son live at the Keziya orphanage as they have no other place to go. Both of her parents were reportedly killed by the rebels.

We have met with inspirational educational leaders, civic leaders and church leaders all who work miracles out of very meager resources. Their needs are very great. One of the urgent needs expressed by all was a top quality vocational school to teach their children skills in carpentry, masonry, plumbing, garage mechanics, etc. as Gulu has precious little teaching in these much needed areas. We met with Rev. John Ocholo of the Gulu Primary school, a very impressive man, his school has 1561 students and is also the Northern Uganda center for the blind of which he has 86 young blind boys and girls. He needs to partner with an association for the blind in the West that can provide him much needed resources for his blind children. He is also desperately in need of bunk beds for the children who live on the schools grounds on mats on the floor all crammed together in little rooms.

We had a big ceremony yesterday at the Keziya Orphanage where we took photos of many of the children, hosted local leaders and discussed their needs along with their learning more about the operation of Keziya. We were entertained by an amazing youth drumming and dance core which everyone loved and then feasted on a great African meal. The gracious hospitality and generosity of Otto and Filder from Keziya Orphanage was overwhelming. It was heart aching to see the many children at the orphanage who had no sponsors and are on the waiting list. These little children so need sponsors for as little as $25 a month to provide for their food, clothing, shelter and school fees. At the other end of the spectrum they have orphans whom they have educated to Senior Level 6 and now need to move on to university or a trade school but their sponsorships end. They desperately need sponsors to step in and sponsor these orphans in their university or trade school fees. It would make such a tremendous difference in a young persons life who greatly values education and hard work.

This morning Michael and I went to Watoto church here in Gulu which was an amazing experience of praise and worship. I am thrilled to know that such a place is alive and well here in Gulu which gives me much encouragement. Watoto is the church where Michael and Maria go in Kampala and they have an extension here in Gulu.

We've made good progress on Francis' case and we meet with him and a doctor tomorrow for a further review. It has been a long road but I feel the Lord's presence leading us onward for Francis. Local leaders told me yesterday that they have many such cases here and are hoping we are successful with Francis. When I return to Kampala I'll meet with the US Embassy to further review Francis' case with them in our attempt to seek a medical visa for Francis.

There is so much more to share here about the stories and the needs of the people here in Gulu which will come out in due time. Please keep the people of Northern Uganda in your prayers. We visited the IDP camps as well which I will write about at a later date. Rich blessings of peace to you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Driving to Gulu today

Great visits in Jinja and Mukono yesterday. Michael and I picked up the Toyota Rav 4 and drove to Jinja yesterday morning. We met with Vincent and the Children of Grace team and he updated us the Fairway orphanage. We then met with Pastor David Sabufu at the Miracle Center in Jinja where he sponsors the National Uganda Cycling team and received an update on his ministry and the team We had lunch at Ozzies with Abraham and then onto the Orphanage. Driving to Gulu today - long 5 to 6 hour drive - hope to finally see Giraffe 's in the wild!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Arrived into Kampala and heading to Jinja

I arrived into Kampala last night with no problem but the Shangri-La Hotel was unable to provide me a room even though I had a reservation. It seems the guy in my room left all his stuff in there so they didn't know what to do and had no other rooms. So I booked nearby in the Fang Fang Hotel which is cheaper but still a nice hotel. My dear friends Michael & Maria Ssansa came over for dinner last night - we had Chinese Food at the hotel restaurant which was pretty good. They both send their greetings to our friends who know them. I spoke with Bishop Zac and we will try to connect later this week when I return to Kampala. A little change in plans in that Michael and I decided to pick up the car a day early and we're heading to Mukono (Habitat house and Fairway Orphanage) and to Children of Grace in Jinja today. Then we'll come back tonight for one more night in Kampala before we head up to Gulu tomorrow. Driving here is going to be nuts but I still feel that it is an important next step in my acclimation to the country. My cell phone number is: (011) 256-077-469-9206. Remember that I'm 11 hours ahead of the states.

The World Food Program has been cutting way back on their food distribution in Northern Uganda which has been deeply impacting NGO's such as schools and orphanages here. That coupled with a drought in the area has people being severely impacted from the lack of food in the outlying and upcountry areas. I should here much more about it today as we begin traveling North.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Arrival in Dubai - First Class!

I have arrived into Dubai and toured their incredible airport before securing a voucher for a free hotel room from Emirates Air both for tonight and for the return leg of the trip. The check-in person for Emirates in SFO was so gracious in upgrading me to Business Class for no charge which I was thrilled with. Wonderful reclining seat with all kinds of amenities and a scrumptious meal. When dinner was over I was settling in to a good movie when the 1st. class stewardess came by and asked if I wanted to move into 1st. class which of course I immediately did! 1st. class on this plane was unbelievable. I had my own private apartment with a big flat screen TV, an incredible bed and an amazing breakfast to go with my french press coffee. I watched three movies and still had enough time for reading and sleeping as it was such a long flight. It was the first flight I've had where I didn't want it to end. I could have flown around the world in that cabin. Quite a contrast to what I will be seeing in the IDP camps in Gulu in just a few days... Blessings to each of you who are praying for this trip.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

So grateful for your prayers and encouragement

I am deeply grateful for the outpouring of prayer support and encouragement for this trip from so many of my family, friends, co-workers and many very supportive people that I haven't even met yet. This trip had its' very beginnings about two years ago after I returned from my last visit to Uganda in 2007 when we built a Habitat for Humanity home near Mukono. A dear friend of mine from the insurance business introduced me to one of his long time customers, Audrey Foster of Shared Blessings. Audrey and I met and she shared with me her vision of the "Medkids" ministry for orphans with significant medical needs. We kept the conversation going over the ensuing months and we began laying the plans for a trip to Gulu to meet with Rev. Otto Naptali of the Keziya Orphanage in Gulu to begin the implementation of this ministry. Once the process begins of laying the groundwork these trips begin to take on a life of their own and this trip has been no exception. The groundswell of support for this trip and for the implementation of this ministry has been deeply encouraging to me to keep the process moving forward as guided by the Holy Spirit.

The Shared Blessings team has been remarkable in their gifts sent along on this trip for the children that they support and for the Keziya Orphanage in general. We have with us many beautiful hand made gifts and cards for the children. We also have with us a large assortment of much needed medicines for the children which Otto will greatly appreciate. The encouragement and prayer support from the many friends of Shared Blessings has been absolutely wonderful - thank you!

Our 2007 Habitat for Humanity team from First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley has been wonderfully supportive in their gifts and prayers for this trip back to Uganda. We will be visiting with the Fairway School and Orphanage in Mukono which our Habitat team adopted in 2007 and are continuing to support. We have cards and gifts from the team to present to Rev. Ottawa Solomon at the orphanage and we look forward to helping this orphanage with any critical needs they may have while we are there. We also have gifts from the team to present to our frineds at the Children of Grace ministry in Jinja which we continue to support as well.

My co-workers at The Sullivan Group have been tremendously supportive and encouraging to me throughout this whole process of preperation for this return trip to Uganda. The Sullivan Group also made a very generous donation during the holidays last year which went directly to support the needs of many orphans at the Keziya Orphanage in Gulu sponsored by Shared Blessings.

Lastly, my beloved wife Kathy and our children have been tremendously supportive and encouraging of this trip. I deeply appreciate the sacrifices that they make in allowing me to take on another one of these many trips for others. I could not even hope to go on another one of these extended excursions without Kathy's assistance in all phases of the planning and preparations. Her organizational gifts were instrumental in putting this trip together and to her, my lovely bride, I am most grateful for her unwavering support and encouragement. Thank you!

Blessings to each of you who are praying for this trip and for the implementation of Medkids.

Now it's off to the airport - we have a flight to catch!