2015 – Learning from former child soldiers


As a middle school student, Jermaine and some of his cousins attended a WeDay event in Seattle. From this experience, Jermaine identified a deep passion for social justice. In high school, he began to learn about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda; he wanted to know more about the impact, and he wanted to hear firsthand.  So we organized a trip to Gulu, Uganda in 2015 to speak to some of the organizations we support there.  During this visit, we were introduced to Sisto, a young man who had lived and fought with the LRA from ages 11-18.  Sisto opened with a question for us: “why should I tell you my story? What is your aim?” He had been asked to share his story so many times before. Jermaine responded without hesitation, “I want to learn; I am here; I care about you; we are brothers.” Sisto relaxed in his chair and began to talk. From his story, we witnessed his strength, his natural ability to lead, his dreams for further education and employment. [We later assisted Sisto to pursue this dream, and to secure a safe place for his family to live.]

On this trip, we also visited ALARM’s Technical and Peacebuilding Institute in Pader, a school opened for former child soldiers and victims of war.  Here, 150 youth lived and studied together, learning about forgiveness and reconciliation as well as construction, carpentry, mechanics, tailoring, agriculture.  Ten students gave their testimonies, stories of great loss, abduction by the LRA, escape, and dreams for becoming doctors, engineers, and lawyers.  In return, Jermaine shared his testimony and his passion for learning about children in conflict.  He recounted an experience he had back home, when he tried to share this passion with his classmates, but no one cared. “How can they not care about anything, not care about their education, just drop out of school when people here in Uganda would give anything to go to school?” He encouraged the students of Pader to keep working – “youth are like arrows,” he explained; “we need to be pointed in the right direction so that we can fly and effect change.”