Chris Markomanolakis (Uganda)

Christopher Markomanolakis graduated from Towson University in 2012 with degrees in Political Science and Metropolitan. He served in the United States Peace Corps as a community health volunteer for three years (2014-2017). During the first two years, he worked on a wide variety of projects/programs including water sanitation, youth empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness, increasing the capacity of health care providers, and many more. After the first two years, Chris became an Assistant Project Manager with Catholic Relief Service’s Accelerating Stunting Reduction Program which focused on reducing stunting by providing pregnant women with nutrition counseling and giving them to tools and skills needed to maintain a home garden. Chris’ responsibilities included facilitating seminars, distributing inputs, designing and constructing solar dryers, and reporting on project indicators. Now Chris has begun studying to earn a Masters of Public Management from the University of Maryland. He has been rewarded several fellowships including the TIAA Nonprofit Leaders Fellowship, Coverdell Fellowship, and the Global Philanthropy Service Fellowship. During the winter of 2017, he worked as a consultant with the Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders and the Wildlife Trust of India(WTI). His team conducted a quantitative analysis to measure the WTI’s impact on female empowerment and conservation within the Valmiki Tiger Reserve. With June just around the corner, Chris is eager to begin training with The Advocacy Project and help the Gulu Disabled Persons Union promote sustainable WASH practices in Gulu, Uganda. After returning from his fellowship over the summer, Chris discussed with AP the impacts the fellowship had on him. "AP gave me the opportunity to stand on my own two legs. Graduate school loves to teach theory and best practices, but AP allowed me to take those lessons and apply them in real life. It was the best ten weeks of my life and it gave me the confidence to pursue a career in international development."



May 11th, 2003

22 Jul

Olympia Portrait

May 11th, 2003. Olympia is partial deaf, her voice is normally rough and uneven, but when she said May 11th, 2003, the words came out smoothly. Clearly this is not her first time telling this story. When Olympia was about eight years old, Gulu was the epicenter of violence. “We were suffering a lot. We would hear the sounds of gunshots while at school. Some of the kids would jump out the windows, but we all had to run. Wherever we went, we had to run.”  To the market, school, home, or church. Everywhere she went, she ran.

“We were never at home; it was too dangerous to be there especially at night. We would cook whatever food we had. He has to run with it, to the bush or town. We had to hide from the rebels.” She describes nights spent sleeping in the dirt, hidden under tall grass, the air filled with the sounds of mosquitoes and screams. The flames from burning houses transformed the soilders’ shadows into monsters. “Some nights, we could not leave [in time] so we hid in our house. Men would come at night, banging on doors, looking for people. If you made a noise, you die”. Her father would keep guard all night. The slightest sound, a twig breaking or the wind, was agonizing. There were many sleepiness nights in those days. “We’d go out in the morning to find our fields uprooted. Houses burnt…and bodies.”  Olympia lost her hearing during the violence. The last vivid sounds she remembers are people crying and gunshots. But then came May 11th, 2003.

“You know, in Uganda the first born son is very important. I barely remember my brother because he was taken from his bed while I was still young.” Olympia’s parents wanted the best for their children and sent their first born to a private, boarding school in Gulu town. It was a nice school with a good reputation, and it was supposed to be safer than staying in the villages. But in the middle of the night, the LRA came over the walls of the school like raiders. Chaos followed, few boys were kidnapped, forced to fight and kill their own people.  “We never ever saw [my brother] again. Some of his classmates escaped that night. But he was taken into the bush. Some who were taken came home once the war ended, but he never came back. We don’t know if he is alive or dead. We pray every night for him to come home.”  17 years, 6 months, and 21 days after her family was ripped apart, she still prays. Even with peace, these traumas linger.

The effects of war do not disappear after some signatures on a piece of paper. The pain lingers for generations.  “With the peace talks, [the violence] was reduced, but the memories are still there. Even now, if a motorcycle [backfires] people’s hearts start pumping. Some drop down; others just run without looking back. I still remember everything, how can I forget what I have seen?”

Olympia ready to dig!

Olympia and Ivan are interning with GDPU this summer!

Posted By Chris Markomanolakis (Uganda)

Posted Jul 22nd, 2018

4 Comments

  • Corinne Cummings

    July 23, 2018

     

    Hi Chris, I loved reading Olympia’s account — it was extremely powerful. It’s great that you are interviewing while out in the field and sharing these profound personal stories in your blog posts. Olympia is incredibly strong; it was inspirational to read about her faith that she has about her brother returning home. I cannot imagine going through that trauma along with Olympia’s residual effects that she still has with the loss of her hearing and the pain she still carries. Thank you for thoughtfully writing out her story. The work that everyone is doing in Uganda is fabulous — everyone is collectively working together beautifully. You can tell by your pictures and the stories that you have shared. Keep up the excellent work — we are all cheering for you all from DC. Best, Corinne

  • Princia Vas

    July 23, 2018

     

    Thank you for sharing the story of Olympia with us:) Truly, the scars left by a war like this definitely takes a long time to heal.
    Great work, Chris!

  • Samantha

    July 23, 2018

     

    Chris- Thank you for sharing. Please relay my deepest sincerity to Olympia for her bravery and willingness to share her story with others. It is a reminder to us all that peace accords and signed papers are only just a start to healing what is lost doing a war. This is a powerful post, thanks again!

  • Ali

    July 23, 2018

     

    Very powerful post, Chris. I can’t imagine the terror that people like Olympia have went through. I truly appreciate the stories you have been sharing so far.

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