I’ve been pretty vague about my “solo” project so far.
In November, I started working with Dr. Zuegner to develop an idea and write a grant proposal. The project I eventually proposed is a multimedia website that shows the effect of child soldiering. I got the grant and the project is becoming more and more real each day, especially today.
I arranged interviews from abroad (through Herbert and Mr. Otim…God bless them) with a former child soldier and his family at Abia. Today was the day I got to spend my afternoon with them. I don’t think I’ve been more excited for something in my entire life.
Unexpected obstacles that popped up over the last 24 hours:
- The realization that the former child soldier and his family will speak their local language, not English.
- Dr. Z had to stay home with a sick student, and I would therefore be on my own for the interviews.
I recruited Chase and Herbert (also known as the sweetest men in the world) to be my assistants for the day and Herbert found a translator, Fr. James, to spend the afternoon with us. Crises averted.
While the rest of the crew was filming a musical performance, Herbert, Chase, Fr. James, a child soldier, his family and I trekked our way through the bush, eventually arriving at a remote cluster of huts.
Once we got to the huts, it was quiet and nobody knew quite what to say. All eyes were on me, looking for a place to start. That’s when I realized that I was in charge of this project. I remembered I was the director/producer of this and, without Dr. Z as my crutch, I had to fill that role completely. So, I took charge and set things up, informed everyone about what was going on and got the show on the road.
After setting up the field recorder and the camera and ensuring that the translator got the point of my project across to the former child soldier, the most intense interview of my life began.
He shared awful moments from his time with the rebels in incredible detail; some of the most scarring things I’ve ever heard.
Then I asked the question, “So many families choose to forget what happened, why do you think you are able to talk about it?”
I guess I just figured since he was open to talk about his experiences in the bush with me, he was open about the same with his family and his clan as well. I didn’t see what was coming.
He answered my question something along the lines of (via translation), “These are secrets I have never told anyone. I can only tell you because you are not from here.”
I wasn’t sure how to react to the responsibility that statement entails. I don’t feel qualified to be this man’s confidante, to be the only human in the world (along with the translator, Chase and Herbert) who knows about the atrocities he was forced to commit in the LRA.
It reinforced the obligation and motivation I have to tell his story. He won’t share with his clan or family because he is afraid of how they would react to the deeds he has done, but he knows that I will share the story with the English-speaking world. Maybe me telling his story can help the overall situation in some small way without having the direct negative impact on himself.
And that’s why journalism is important.