NEW YORK, USA, 11 March 2010 – UNICEF figures estimate that at least 1.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Uganda due to droughts, flooding, internal displacement and the return of at least 300,000 Ugandans following the cessation of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) activities.
Other UNICEF statistics reveal that nearly half the estimated 2 million Ugandan orphans are orphaned due to AIDS, and the LRA has abducted more than 25,000 children since 1986.
Podcast moderator Amy Costello spoke with two Ugandan students, Sanyu, 14, who was orphaned by AIDS, and Nokrach, 16, a former child soldier, about their experiences and the transformative impact education has had on their lives.
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“Maybe I’d be dead”
After losing both her parents to AIDS when she was very young, Sanyu had to drop out of school to take care of her young sister and brother.
Soon after, she met American photographer Steven Shames, and now Sanyu attends one of the top schools in Uganda. She is supported by Mr. Shames’ organization L.E.A.D. Uganda, an education and leadership program for disadvantaged children in Uganda.
When asked what she thought would have happened if she hadn’t become involved with L.E.A.D. Uganda Sanyu says thoughtfully, “I don’t know. Maybe I’d be dead”.
Nokrach says he was only 7 years old when rebel soldiers abducted him and forced him to fight in Uganda’s civil war.
After fleeing the conflict, Nokrach also became involved with L.E.A.D Uganda, and is now attending school, which he says has improved his confidence.
“I can lead my friends and lead the country maybe one day and I think I (now) have the courage and leadership skills… I believe I can make it,” he says.
Sanyu says education cannot be taken for granted.
“Education… is to do with the future and that’s how you can achieve your dreams and your goals,” Sanyu says. “I aspire to be a doctor… I want to fight AIDS that takes the life of many in my country”.