From: Anywar Ricky Richard |Founder & Executive Director of Friends of Orphans (FRO):
I was abducted at the age of 14 years with my brother by the Lord’s Resistance Army. When I escaped from the bush I was helped, supported and put into formal education. I worked with the Ministry of Education and Sports before becoming fully committed with FRO. I saw from my own experience that if former child soldiers could be supported, they are still useful human beings and good citizens. I would like to give an opportunity for each of them. They can also still succeed in life.
My personal experiences has motivated me to found FRO and demonstrates the impressive character, resilience and determination that former abductees can have when supported.
FRO works to end the vicious cycle endured by LRA abductees, their activities focus first on providing basic needs to former LRA child soldiers and abductees, then working on development and empowerment activities. The organization employee’s mostly people, who have gone through abduction themselves, therefore are able to appropriately related and address the issues facing former child soldiers and abductees.
We use arts, music, dances, drama and cultural activities to mobilizes and encourage different communities to engage in peace building, conflict management, reconciliation and human rights activities to ensure that all voices are represented. Music, dance and culture activities are very powerful tools for peace building and reconciliation. FRO holds music, dances and cultural competitions, which draws local community groups from many different IDP camps. This encourages interaction and engenders a sense of community. The process also helps in furthering the rehabilitation and reintegration of former abducted children, child mothers and orphans in to the community hence peace and harmony in the society.
FRO also supports people living with HIV/AIDS through arts, music and cultural activities to educate themselves and share information with the broader community on prevention, treatment, care and the elimination of stigma. Arts, music and cultural activities also help people who are dying of AIDS so that their last weeks, days, or hours are free from pain, humiliation and indignity.
FRO believes the best way to ensure survivors are not exploited again is through empowerment. Therefore FRO provides free self employment oriented vocational training, entrepreneurship and sustainable income generation skills for former abducted child mothers, vulnerable women-headed households, youth out-of-school and former child soldiers in Pader District IDP camps. When training is completed FRO provides a sum of capital (including equipment and supplies) to launch a sustainable small business or income-generating activity.
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 working on 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.