ALIMO OLYMPIA JOYCE
Olympia was born into extreme hardship. As a child, she lost her mother to AIDS, was abused by her step Mother, and was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Rebel Army as a sex slave. The LRA used to force these children to kill, often even their own family in the most unthinkably horrific ways. When Olympia refused to kill an elderly man, the soldiers decided to kill her instead, but miraculously she was able to get away and survived with only a bullet shot wound. When she escaped, she learned she was now an orphan as her Father and Grandmother had also both been killed. She went to stay with the only remaining family she had; her brother and his wife, but when her brother died in a motorcycle accident, his wife decided she did not want to take care of Olympia anymore, and one night, took everything they owned and left Joyce all alone. It was shortly after in which we found each other. Olympia has a heart of gold, and continues to become a confident young woman who feels worthy of life. Because of what she has survived, it is Olympia’s dream to help others. She has just begun University and hopes to become a social worker.
EDGE believes in the ripple effect of empowering women, and that the way to create sustainable change is through development. EDGE is constantly evolving by those we work with. These are some of their courageous stories.
LIMPE OKEMA GRACE
Grace was born in the bush after her parents were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army. She was given a fire arm and trained to be a child soldier by the time she was 7 years old. “Food was got through attacking (Internally Displaced Peoples) camps and villages. Sometimes we could take 3 days without eating. Life was unbearable because there was no hospitals or clinics and I was in poor health. We could sleep on grasses, no house. Many people were killed in front of us as children, including my Dad was also killed when I was seeing. They could even cut people into pieces. Girls were forced to “marry” big men. There are many things terrible which was done…” After being forced to watch the killing of her Father, Limpe’s mother “went mad” and being around her made Limpe once again fear for her life. Because of the trauma she experienced, Limpe even thought those who rescued her were going to kill her. She was taken to a primary school for orphan survivors of the war. Because of lack of resources, most children who attend primary school are not able to reach secondary school, and this is when most of the girls are forced to marry. When I met Limpe, she was selling distilled alcohol and charcoal. She has recently enrolled in University, and is looking forward to studying Social Sciences so that she can work with “Community, Children and Mothers.”
Sarah was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and remained in captivity for 3 years. After escaping, she lost her Mother and Father shortly after to AIDS. When we first sent Sarah back to school, someone in her village tried to poison her out of jealousy. She struggled in school and suffered from terrible PTSD; a concept not acknowledged in this cultured. When she had an episode related to her PTSD, the school, thinking she was “possessed by the Devil”, sent her back to the village without any of our knowledge. She was there for only 2 weeks, and was raped and fell pregnant. During that time, Sarah took a break from school, and we helped her open her own kiosk so that she could support her and her son. One night, the kiosk was robbed and she once again lost everything. When EDGE collaborated with a program called “Healing and Rebuilding our Communities” to host Trauma Healing workshops, Sarah was profoundly impacted. After so many years of pain and suffering, Sarah is finally coming into her confidence. Her son is now 4 years old, they are both back in school, and she has dreams of becoming a Nurse.
ATIMANGO RUTH BRENDA
Brenda's Father was killed by the Rebels when she was 5 years old. Treated violently by her late husband’s family, because she was now a widow, and because most village women aren’t given the opportunities to gain the tools necessary to be independent, Brenda’s Mother went to stay with her Parents, along with Brenda and her two siblings. One night, the Rebels came into their home, demanding Brenda’s Grandmother kill her Grandfather, and sent her to fetch an axe. When she escaped, the Rebels burned down their home with her Grandfather inside. Brenda, her Mother and her siblings were only spared because they were sleeping outside. “After the death of my Grandfather, things became harder and the conditions worsen. There was no any other options for my Mom than getting married to another man.” Brenda was not allowed to join her Mother’s new life, and when her Mother found out that her new husband was HIV positive, she had already contracted there and died shortly after. Brenda attended a Government Primary School for war-affected children, but when she could not afford Secondary School, began to spend her days digging in the field and collecting firewood; the cyclical life of women in the villages. “[It was then] I was connected to ‘Auntie Jenna’ and it was exciting to me to meet other girls. That's what gave me hope. She promised to help us studies with all the love we deserve.” After Brenda graduated from Secondary School, she decided to attend a Certificate Level school for Industrial Art and Design and recently graduated. EDGE is now collaborating with Brenda to create own business of making and selling stunningly unique, handcrafted bags. She looks forward to opening a factory this year, and plans to train other women to become independent and self-sufficient as well. “My life was hard. But now, I am looking forward to having a great future.”
APIYO SCOVIA TRACY
“The world we are living in is full of sorrows and suffering, especially when you don't have both parents.” Scovia's Mother left when she was only 2 weeks old, and only returned after her Father was abducted and killed by the Rebel Army, but died shortly after to AIDS. “Now after the death of my Mother, I had sleepless nights and dreams was pains, suffering in my life and future. I never received nor had parental love and care. Even eating, drinking, dressing was a miracle in my day.” Scovia didn’t even have money for soap, and dug in the fields to try and survive. Given the opportunity to go to Primary School, she even repeated Primary 7 to “avoid early marriage.” “What I couldn't dream or expect in my life was to get in school, or an angel to come take me in school.” When Scovia graduated Secondary School, she decided to attend an Industrial Arts and Design Program with Brenda, and recently graduated. Recently, she discovered she was pregnant. Though she is a long-term relationship and is now in her 20s, she has experienced ostracizing backlash because she is not married. This has been an extreme source of stress for her, as she has been very sick this year. Scovia loves to sew, and EDGE will be helping her create a training center to teach other women how to sew too, so that both she and them can continue to find and maintain their independence.h the killing of her Father, Limpe’s mother “went mad” and being around her made Limpe once again fear for her life. Because of the trauma she experienced, Limpe even thought those who rescued her were going to kill her. She was taken to a primary school for orphan survivors of the war. Because of lack of resources, most children who attend primary school are not able to reach secondary school, and this is when most of the girls are forced to marry. When I met Limpe, she was selling distilled alcohol and charcoal. She has recently enrolled in University, and is looking forward to studying Social Sciences so that she can work with “Community, Children and Mothers.”
MAMA AJOK AND OYELLA
When I met Ajok, she was carting jugs of water back and forth for mile as miles, all day long, earning the equivalent of 25 cents a day. One night, she told me, her husband left to find work in Sudan and never returned, leaving her to fend for herself and her young daughter, Oyella. Ajok was abducted by the Lords’s Resistance Army as a child, and is living with HIV/AIDS. EDGE pays for her daughter’s Primary School and is helping Ajok open her own kiosk.
I met Graty when she was cleaning the office I worked in whole living in Uganda. Supporting 9 children, she was only earning the equivalent of $25.00 a month. Graty was born in 1974, and was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army at the age of 6. She remained in the bush with the Rebels for one year, before being “assigned as an army house wife.” Graty was married off by the age of 14, and had 4 children, before her husband brought in a second wife who abused them. Together with her 4 children, she bravely left her husband, and took in 5 other orphans, though she only earned the equivalent of just over $20 a month. Graty has HIV. When asked what business she would like to start, she said she would like to sell charcoal. This has increased her monthly wages and sense of stability drastically. Soon, Brenda, another recipient of EDGE who has learned the craft through her schooling will begin teach Graty how to hand-make beautiful bags, adding to her income-generating potential, financial independence, and therefore, quality of life and empowerment.
Aber lost both of her parents to the LRA Rebels when she was only 9 years old, forcing her to drop out of school to take care of her 2 brothers. In her early twenties, she had a child as a single mother. When we met, she was working 10-12 hour days, washing clothes with a baby strapped to her back, for the equivalent of $27 a month. Last year, Aber lost both of her brothers and her only son in a motorcycle accident. Devastated, she is and now taking care of her brother’s child, and has decided to go back to school. As a 29 year old in Uganda, this is very brave.
ACHIRO MELISA PROSSY
Melisa was unlike most young Ugandan women you meet. While the others found it hard at first to look me in the eye, Melissa liked to sign and perform for me. She had big dreams of becoming a star, and walked through life with a contagious spirit and a vinrant step.
“I was born in December 1995. Well I Become An Orphan In This way. My Dad Was Being Kill By LRA Kony group, and I did not see him cause I was still in my Mum’s womb. My dad was being cut in to pieces that what they told me after me growing up. For three years, my life was very hard in village because of the War. My Mum ran with to the bush when the LRA had started to fight. I remember many girls taken as there wife and rape. In some school in our village, Teachers were cut into pieces and cooked by them and were force to be eaten by pupils at school. Hmmmmm Pliz Unty Can I stop Here? (Because of the nature of their trauma, and since trauma is not really acknowledged culturally, it took many years for Melisa and others to begin to tell their stories, and sometimes it was too much.
Two years ago, we lost our Melisa; suddenly, from undetermined causes.
Her sudden and young passing highlights the inequities many in the world face, as so many lack access to proper health care. Melisa had been sick quite a lot this year, and like the other girls, had been in and out of the hospital, suffering from tuberculosis, pneumonia and multiple bouts of malaria. The week she died, she had been hospitalized because her body was in pain, but was discharged when the tests showed nothing concrete.
Melissa was finishing her last year of high school and was developing a program to teach sex education and health in the villages during her school holidays.
This dear loss only solidifies the importance of the work we do to give girls and women and equal chance at life. Where human rights are lost, so are lives.
Shortly before her passing, in response to talking about all who have supported her, she said: "Send My Greeting To Everyone At Ur Home... tel Them I Lov Them All."
So thank you... Thank you for helping to show her that her life, and her time on this earth mattered. I know she would want us to continue the fight in her honor.