Tuesday was the hardest day of my life.
But for the people in the former internally displaced people camp, it was just another day of poverty, crushing poverty. Almost beyond our imagination.
We visited two of the camps where people of northern Uganda went for safety during a civil war that lasted 20 years. The people — mostly subsistence farmers — left their homes because of the threat of rebels led by Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army. He relied mainly on child soldiers — children he abducted from their homes and their schools — to carry out this terror.
Now he is in the Congo, so some degree of safety has returned. Most have left the camps, but some people remain. Orphans. Widows. And they need everything.
We went to the first camp and heard about a massacre there where 300 people died when the rebels attacked with guns and setting grass huts on fire with people in them. Then it got even more real. We split into three groups and faced about 100 men, women and children. They stood up and told us what happened to them during the massacre. Then we asked them if they had questions for us.
They did. One woman asked if we could take the children with us so they could have a better life. They wanted schools. Health care for diseases that don’t kill people in other parts of the world: diarrhea, malaria. All I could do was write down their names. Tell them it sounded like a good idea. And that I hoped all those things would happen. I felt powerless, overwhelmed, guilty, ashamed. It was all I could do not to cry.
When it was over, I told these men, women and children that we would hold them in our hearts and we would not forget them.
So here are the names of each person who spoke.
Ajok Mila Rose
Abu Molly, holding her baby, Abaja Sandra
I will never forget any of you.