Friends of Orphans (FRO)

Pader, Northern Uganda

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Child Soldiers Program

Child Soldier’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that is the essence of inhumanity." From The Devil's Disciple by George Bernard Shaw

drawingsWhat is “Child Soldiering?
Child Soldiering is the systemic abduction, coercion, recruitment and use of children as combatants and in other abusive combat-related roles into which children are forced or coerced, including as “recruiters” of other children as soldiers, to kill, rape, maim, intimidate and torture, or serve as cheap or unpaid servitude, and/or as sex slaves to military or paramilitary forces. It also refers to government, rebel group, mercenary and private military contractor abduction, recruitment and conscription of children as soldiers and servants in declared or undeclared wars or conflict.

Thomas KopkuluWho Become the Victims of Child Soldiering?
Children who come from poor communities, largely uneducated and dealing with survival issues, are the most likely to become child soldiers.

Children usually become soldiers through abduction or coercion or through mandatory conscription or forced recruitment. Children and youth from indigenous rural populations are especially at risk. Others join to accompany an older family member, or are encouraged to join by family members as a source of income or protection.

For some children, joining a military organization provides a sense of security, takes care of immediate survival needs and bestows a sense of identity. In some instances, children join liberation struggles, such as during the Freedom Struggle in apartheid South Africa, or to counter a threat to a group or nation. Political and religious ideologies also motivate some children to join military organizations. Governments also use children as part of its national military force.

Most people must feel “effective” before they will act on behalf of others. This is true in every society.

Coalition to stop the use of child soldiers:
Created in 1998, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers works to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers, to secure their demobilization and to promote their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. read more>>

The Need to Support Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programs

FRO concentrates on the needs of Children Restorative Programs, Peace Building Initiatives, Children’s and women’s Rights, Income generating activities, Education, Livelihood support, Health, Jobs Creation, Career Development, and Arts and Culture.

1. What is context of peoples and children’s lives in Uganda?

A 21 year war in Northern Uganda has killed many thousands of civilians, including several raids. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), composed of children and youth, most of whom are abducted from Northern Uganda, is based in Sudan, and is pledged to overthrow the Ugandan government. Hundreds of thousands of children have been affected by conflict, many are now orphans, many are HIV positive,most have not been able to finish their educations, this in a context of severe economic deprivation, reduced farming and few jobs.

2. What are the needs of children and families in Uganda?

As with all children who have endured long term trauma and holocaust-like conditions, children need a range of rehabilitative and restorative services - counseling and clinical, family and community influences, literacy, education and skills, jobs creation, health services, including HIV/AIDS treatment and services, community building, local and regional peace building, and creating a culture which understands, respects and enforces human rights and children’s rights, including attention to domestic violence against women and children.
How are these needs being addressed by FRO?

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FRO concentrates on the needs of children who were abducted or forcibly recruited as soldiers in LRA, with a special emphasis on girls who endured huge amounts of abuse, many of whom now have children and are HIV positive. Both boys and girls, some as young as nine, were combatants, suffered physical, psychological and emotional abuse, and were forced to conduct a wide range of atrocities, including against family members and neighbors. Reintegration back to family (where family still exists - many were killed, others are internally displaced and live in refugee camps) and community requires a phased process including traditional methodology as well as community education.

FRO programs provide individual, peer and group counseling and clinical therapy, education, skills training, recreation and games, jobs creation skills, and projects which are both therapeutic and income generating. HIV/AIDS home base care, support, counseling and prevention training, and referrals for treatment, is a growing component of FRO’s programs.

Peer leadership has been a highly successful means in the rehabilitative process. Former child soldiers are grouped according to age, background and personal experience under a group peer leader who record their aspirations, goals, dreams, and experiences under rebel captivity or in the hands of their relatives. Peer leaders and the group then determine plans geared to achieve their goals. These are later grouped into findings to help ground psychological and other support systems. This is part of FRO’s bottom to top planning process.

The rationale behind peer leadership is to allow free expression by former soldiers/children/orphans and understanding of their feelings. Adult participate as guides to the discussion, but peer leaders lead the discussions. Follow up planning then follows further bottom, then middle and top level planning.

In middle level forums, the peer group leaders discuss the various opinions and outcomes of the peer group discussions. Then, a representative of the group sits in on the top level-planning forum. This has helped FRO plan comprehensively for all situations and needs of adolescents and children they serve.

FRO Child Soldiers Program Implementation:
After middle and top-level management approve the program plans, the next effort is in acquiring needed materials, equipment and resources for immediate projects and activities, which is facilitated by the group leaders. Long-term goals are also planned for implementation. Arts and cultural therapy projects are a high priority.

These are organized and include drama, songs, and poems which depict the various situations of war, poverty, conflict, orphanage life style and how best to solve problems and address issues. This has gone a long way and has cut across broad lines to change people’s attitudes to wars and an openness to conflict resolutions.

These art forms also raise consciousness around how to understand the special needs of orphans and girls child in post conflict society. It creates awareness in the community that former child soldiers are no different from other children - only that they need care and support.

Drama is recorded and viewed by many in local conferences, workshops, and seminars. Also children are able to tell the delegates their problems, what they think is the right things to do and how best it can be done to resolve conflict and address the needs of children. 

Peer counselors implement most of the psychological support programs, and attempts are made to seek professional clinicians.
FRO is focused on the role of the children and youth they serve in telling their stories, through testimonials, story telling and artwork. 

FRO is organizing a project to combine stories, testimonials and artwork into a “world tour” project, in which FRO children and other former child soldiers share their lives and experiences on tour as well as through their stories and artwork, creating raised consciousness and support as well as income generating activities.