Tag Archives: Radio

5-Job

Farm on the way to Pagirinya Refugee Settlement

When refugees come from South Sudan, they have to register themselves at a government office. They will be given a plot of land about 30 by 20 meters where they can cultivate their own crops to sustain themselves. They either buy their seeds or receive them from a NGO.

My overall impression of the refugees is that there has been so much help from the Ugandan government, Ugandans, and NGOs that their lives look normal. The refugee camps are like villages. People take care of people. Most people live in huts or brick huts similar to the indigenous Acholi people. They have a tiny amount of land compared to the local people, but for most refugees it is sustainable and allows for other refugees to have land. Food can be supplemented by NGOs, and money obtained from doing other activities. Water is free since it can be pumped from the ground using wells. There are really old cars here and a lot of motorcycles. They have freedom of movement and can even get jobs.

Phones give a lot more opportunity to people in Uganda. They can be used to exchange money. Credit cards and debit cards haven’t taken off like they have in the US. Furthermore, they have radios on them which is awesome since almost every household has access to some form of entertainment and news. Radio stations were first set up by the Anglican Church. Now, in Adjumani, there are 5 radio stations. They have become a source of education and information. Part of their broadcasting is telling people their rights. 80% of those stations are Catholic. The people here are interested in holy programs like preaching or readings from the Bible. The difficulty of life creates this great interest. Faith becomes hope.

However, the normalcy is just a veil. The traumatizing experiences will take a lifetime to get over. If they lost a family member or got separated, a full stomach isn’t enough to make one happy. They lost their home and now are in a foreign land. In the background, human trafficking and other nefarious activities happen regularly. Child trafficking is especially terrible (although not that common). Boys are taken back to South Sudan and become child soldiers. Girls are taken back to South Sudan for child marriage.

With so many refugees, local essential services like hospitals and schools have been overburdened. Health care is abysmal. Diseases are prevalent. The hospitals weren’t built to accommodate so many people. There aren’t enough beds there. Some people have to lay on a mattress on the ground. The staffing is too low. The maternity ward has one nurse at a time. Regarding schools, there is just too many students. Primary school tries to take as many children as possible. There is a shortage of scholastic materials, though. The shortage is secondary schools is even worse. There is a big drop in between those who continue their education and those who don’t due to the lack of space. Culture isn’t helping. The first born child is usually taken out of school to help around the house.

Gender based issues further worsen everything. Domestic abuse is a problem. Men beat women and women beat men. The marital problems don’t stop there. According to the culture, women would go to men for marriage and there would be a dowry. Now, men are going to women which becomes a problem if the men are already married since they are leaving their families. But, the ugliest parts of marital strife happen to women. Early marriage and child marriage stunts women’s intellectual growth. Once married, women have little time to educate themselves since they have to take care of the family. Culture doesn’t help as is the case with wife inheritance. Wife inheritance occurs when the husband dies. His wife must marry his brother even if she doesn’t want to. This makes a lot of relatives kidnappers who want their sisters-in-law to come back so that they can marry them. Women are getting educated and are trying to stop this practice, and Ugandan laws protect them. Despite all the troubles women face, the worst happens to orphans since they are the most vulnerable.

Shattering

I don’t think you can understand good and evil exclusively. I think also that in some cases, you can see moments of pure goodness in the middle of the worst kind of evil.

Look at a man like Joseph Kony for instance. We learned in Abia, which is an Internally Displaced Person camp, that one of the ways Kony would “train” the children he kidnapped was by gathering all of the kids from the same town, choosing one of them, and ordering the others to kill him. This would ensure that these children’s connection to their home would be shattered, the emotional links to their parents would be shattered, and that they would never be able to return home.

This is one of those times where I can’t believe the absolutely insane amount of evil in the world. This man took these children, his own people, and turned them into complete monsters. In the wake of something like that, I start to believe that there is nothing, no amount of good that can combat that kind of evil.

At Radio Wa though, I think I found it.

Radio Wa is a radio station that is affiliated with the Catholic Church. During our visit to this station, we learned that Wa had a channel that broadcasted details about the war and those in “the bush” (people who had been taken by Kony).

In particular, one of these broadcasts was designed so that the families of the children that had been taken could communicate a message to those in “the bush” in the hopes that their children would hear it:

“We still love you. Come home.”

I think that that level of unwavering, unconditional love is something that no amount of evil or men like Kony have any hope of destroying. That kind of love is the kind that never weakens, even as one’s child has been transformed into a complete monster. That kind of love is the kind of love I think we can learn from, the kind that never dies or is even shaken. I find that that love, in this nation where I see fights in the street, poor people with no way out, and people whose lives have been shattered by war and poverty, is one of the purest forms of good I have ever seen.

Alberto, the man who runs Radio Wa, told us that there were many kids who made it out of the bush, and they said the reason they came back is because somewhere out in the wilderness, they heard these broadcasts. It’s no surprise then that during the peace talks, one of the conditions of peace was that that specific broadcast be shut down.

TL;DR: No evil is strong enough to shatter real love.

The other side of the radio

“It’s you and me singing the same song right now and maybe this will bring us together somehow, and maybe there’s a million people all singing along…and maybe someone’s saying a prayer for the first time. That’s enough reason to keep me singing my song, on the other side of the radio. We’re changing someone’s world from the other side of the radio…and maybe this will bring us together somehow.”

I had these lyrics from Chris Rice’s song, The Other Side of the Radio, on my mind today as we went to interview some people from Radio WA. Some things we asked them were about the impact of the radio before and after the war in Uganda. The answers were astounding. In this case, the radio in Uganda is more than entertainment. It’s used for education, problem solving and more.

During the war, the radio was used to communicate with the children who were abducted and forced to become child soldiers. Families and communities used the radio to send a message of courage and hope to the child soldiers and encouraged them to escape the bush and come home. The radio saved over 1,500 child soldiers this way – most of which would never have thought of escaping until they heard their parents’ voice on the radio because of the atrocities that they had committed against the community.

With the kids at the school next to a Radio WA tower