PERSPECTIVE OF A UGANDAN IN CANADA
THEY are coming to Uganda on Friday night on a flight from Amsterdam, two heroes who never wanted to be in the limelight but who were pushed to the forefront because they cared enough for children they had never met, a country they h
THEY are coming to Uganda on Friday night on a flight from Amsterdam, two heroes who never wanted to be in the limelight but who were pushed to the forefront because they cared enough for children they had never met, a country they had never visited and a cause they had never dreamed of championing.
They are two ordinary Canadians who, like millions of Canadians, were doing their own thing when they chanced upon the gripping sad story of the plight of children in Northern Uganda.
They learned that the 20-year-old insurgency has wreaked havoc with security such that little children barely out of diapers are forced each night to commute on foot for several kilometres to town centres for a secure night sleep. Whatâ€™s more, the children have to return to their villages the following morning, go to school (for those brave and fortunate enough to be in school), only to repeat the night walk allover again the following evening.
For Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward, it was unacceptable that children in developed countries like Canada were well cared for while in Uganda thousands of children slept under the veranda because they were scared of night violence in their own homes.
The pair sought to shake the world from its sleep, highlight the plight of the children in northern Uganda, and more important urge that the long-simmering conflict end. They founded the Guluwalk, a not-for-profit organisation which over the last eight months has pushed the issue of the Acholi children to world attention.
Last July, for the entire month, the Toronto natives walked 14 kilometres each night to downtown Toronto where they slept on raffia mats under open night skies in front of Toronto City Hall. They were accompanied each night by several hundred walkers wearing the bright orange Guluwalk T-shirts which have become the symbol of hope for the children in northern Uganda.
On Sunday, October 23, 2005 the pair staged an International Guluwalk that drew thousands in 40 cities worldwide including Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Boston, Chicago, Denver, CO; Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, Beijing, Gulu, Kampala, London, Nairobi, Perth (Australia); Stockholm (Sweden); Sucre (Bolivia), and Uzice (Serbia). In London, the event was led by Rwot David Onen Acana II while peace mediator Betty Bigombe walked in Washington, DC.
In his down-to-earth easy manner, Bradbury, who prefers to be called simply Adrian, sees this trip as an opportunity to finally connect with the children on whose behalf he has spoken so loudly.
â€œWe want to meet the children, hear their personal stories, see for ourselves the good work that others are already doing for them and determine what we can do to make a difference,â€ he said in a telephone interview when reached on Sunday as he packed for the trip.
However, ever a realist, the activist conceded that he did not know what to expect and will be guided by the people who are on the ground in Gulu and Kitgum. The visit will be coordinated by the Vicar General of Gulu Archdiocese, Monsignor Matthew Odong. The nine-day trip to Northern Uganda will enable the Canadians to meet with non-governmental organisations, government officials and visit some of the IDP camps.
â€œOur plan is really to meet the people for whom we continue to advocate â€“ this is a non-political trip and we will be happy to meet with whoever will meet us,â€ said Bradbury.
Although the Guluwalk has swallowed a large part of their family lives for the better part of this year, both Bradbury and Hayward are far from packing it in. If anything, the organisation they founded has only grown stronger, attracted more support across the world, and consolidated its standing as one of the Canadian charities at the forefront creating positive change for children in war.
â€œWe are going to come back from this trip a lot stronger to continue our advocacy for the children in Uganda, and to support peaceful resolution to the conflict that is at the root of the problem,â€ said Bradbury. While their time in Uganda will be mostly devoted to charity work, the two plan to take some time to see Uganda, meet people and establish lasting friendship.
Guluwalk founders to visit northern Uganda