By Caroline Ariba
ON a very hot Wednesday, I arrive at Lira town. It was business like, the typical upcountry urban settings, hoping to catch a glimpse of what the 20 year old conflict has done, I look around. And nothing! Instead, mushrooming structures and investments properly shield any scars that might linger.
Until I go approximately 4 kilometers away from the busy township, along the Soroti-Lira highway. A signpost comes to view, “LINDA foundation” it reads. A few meters into direction the arrow points, is a home. In its compound is a 13 year old still clad in school uniform who I later discover is Emmanuel Bejja.
The little boy has leaved in this home from the tender age of four when he was saved from a life of un-certainty on the Lira streets. Not a tress of his painful past can be seen and today his biggest dream is to become a bank manager.
Jozina Van Eerdenburg poses with some of the beneficiaries
Emmanuel, just like many of the children living in that home was found on the streets at a tender age fending for himself after his parents had died. In shock, I ask why he didn’t go live with a relative. To this he responds, “I don’t know my relatives because my father and mother run to the camp when I was a baby”
He found himself stuck on the street barely able to express himself, “Sometimes I would steal from people in order to survive when begging didn’t work” he recalls.
His parents who allegedly hailed from Orumu Sub County in Lira district run to Lira town to escape the violent and constant attacks by Kony and his LRA rebels. In the camp therein is where they died of an illness the young boy only recalls as strange. It was for children like Emmanuel above that LINDA foundation was founded.
How LINDA Foundation came to life
Back in 1999, Jozina Van Eerdenburg who was a banker from the Netherlands visited northern Uganda. According to the Project Director Patrick Opio, what she was barely possible to fathom and it was the determination to turn it around that drove her. In 2003, after mobilizing some funds back home in the Netherlands, she bought land and built a house that is now home to many children that would have otherwise had nothing.
She registered an NGO called the LINDA Foundation, which in full stands for Light In Dynamic Africa. A handful of children were first taken in and later many were given a chance with up to 50 children living in the home.
Some of the children sharing a joke at home with their care takers
For the children that had relatives with not much to survive on, LINDA foundation educates and gives them basics while they stay with their relatives.
“Children can’t live in such emptiness, therefore we have to thank organizations like LINDA Foundation that turn this around” says Victor Angwena the chairman of Gweng Abaara area where the school and home is found.
26 year old Solomon Okello who was the head of a child headed family is now a graphics designer who runs his own company called SOLOGRAPHIX in Lira Municipality. He can’t thank LINDA foundation enough for the way they transformed his life after he was stuck taking care of his siblings after his parent’s death.
The organization has built a primary school that educates many of these destitute children right next to the home. It’s nothing fancy but it is impacting these children’s lives in ways they didn’t even imagine it could.
“Today these children can dream of all kinds of exciting careers, from actor, to Lawyer, to business women” Patrick says. One Geoffrey Ogwal believes he will be a great journalist some day!
“Our plan is to raise as more funds as possible because we operate in a region whose children need help. Every-time I see a street kid or child headed house-hold I know we have to work even harder.” exclaims Patrick the organization’s co-coordinator.
With the help of care takers Christine Akello and Albino Ogony whom the children call mum and dad, these children have a chance at a great rehabilitation.
They are guided and natured like children should be in a home filled with love and hope!