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Children of Uganda

Images by Heather McClintock are exhibited on campus this week. The exhibition is part of a series of events on "Children in Armed Conflict: The Case of Northern Uganda." 

December 2010

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“Children in Armed Conflict" series”

During her semester abroad in Uganda and Rwanda, Kim Hansen ’11 was able to study post-conflict transformation at first hand and interact with victims of displacement, child abduction and violence.

This week the college’s Center for International Education, in conjunction with the Peace and Justice Center, marks Human Rights Day with a similarly eye-opening experience.

The series “Children in Armed Conflict: The Case of Northern Uganda” runs through Wednesday and includes a photo exhibit, film (“Children of War”), discussion and lecture.

An up-close look at abuse’s effects
Of her own experience in Uganda, Hansen says, “I had watched the documentary film ‘Invisible Children’ and attended a peace rally in Chicago called ‘Displace Me’ when I was in high school, so I’ve had an interest in learning about these kinds of human rights abuses.”  

“When I found this program through the School for International Training (SIT), I was like, wow, this is exactly what I want.”

SIT offered Hansen the opportunity to observe first hand the traumatizing consequences of civil conflict, increasing her awareness of human rights abuses around the world.

While in Uganda, Hansen lived in Gulu, a major city that just recently returned to a period of peace after the armed rebellion of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against the Ugandan government. The LRA has attacked numerous villages, abducted thousands of children and displaced hundreds of thousands of Ugandans.

“It was safe in Gulu again, which is why we could go,” says Hansen.  “But people were still trying to recover. People were going back to work, starting to farm again, but many of them were traumatized from being abducted as children or living most of the past two decades in the displacement camps.”

Hansen remembers those displacement camps as the hardest thing to see. “It reminded me of a verse in James saying the religion that is accepted by God as pure, is the religion that looks after widows and orphans.”

Awareness leads to action
Living with a local family gave Hansen hands-on interaction with the problems of recovery from such conflict.

“My extended home-stay family was just returning home after 16 years in a displacement camp,” Hansen recalls.  “They also brought in a lot of orphans with them from the camp. It was hard to watch them with all these orphans and not enough food.”

As she anticipated, Hansen’s study-abroad experience furthered her desire to work toward ending human rights abuses. While the program served its purpose by teaching her about conflict and recovery in the developing world, Hansen now wants to transform her awareness into action.

“I kind of came back with a sense of despair and hopelessness,” Hansen recalls. “We went in to see all these problems and we were just there to observe and to learn. And I feel like I’m helping because I’m sharing their stories, but I want to be able to do something practical to help.

“I plan on living in a developing country and doing advocacy work and conflict resolution. I’m also considering graduate school for conflict resolution.”

Children in Armed Conflict: "The Case of Northern Uganda"

This series on the Ugandan situation, coming to St. Norbert to mark Human Rights Day, includes the following events:

Through Thursday, Dec. 9
Campus Center
"Innocent Casualties of Civil War," an exhibit of work by photographer Heather McClintock

Wednesday, Dec. 8
6 p.m., Fort Howard Theater
A screening of the documentary film “Children of War” will be followed by discussion.

Thursday, Dec. 9
12 noon-7 p.m. Bemis International Center
Exhibit of art created by former child soldiers.

Thursday, Dec. 9
7 p.m., Fort Howard Theater
"Chiold Soldiers," a lecture by Victor Ochen, founder of the African Youth Initiative Network.

For more information, visit the “Children in Armed Conflict” website.

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