On Saturday, June 20th, I went out to the village of Palenga to meet one of the beneficiaries of the GDPU’s many projects. We left Gulu, and after driving through thick bush for about 30 minutes, emerged into a whole new world. Palenga is close to Gulu in proximity, but incredibly distant in terms of development. There are Mud huts spread few and far between, connected only by maize fields and criss-crossing footpaths that lay mostly hidden by the dominating plant life.
We finally came to the home of Onen Francis, a client of the GDPU and a survivor of an LRA raid. During this raid in 1988, Onen was only a boy, maybe 8 years old. When he and his family heard the rebels coming, they dropped everything and ran into the bush. Onen got out of sight quickly, but then fell awkwardly and broke his back, suffering a serious spinal cord injury. Later that day, his family found him and carried home, but not to the hospital; it was too far away to carry him, and too expensive to arrange for transport. Instead, he stayed at home, healing naturally. And slowly, and excruciatingly painfully.
20 years later, Onen Francis is still showcasing the amazing strength he had so many years ago. He has several physical challenges, but even in the face of these difficulties, he is still someone his family can rally around. He is quick to smile, and he never complains about his situation. Him and his family have worked hard to move out of the Internally Displaced Persons camp in Northern Uganda and are working to rebuild their home in their ancestral village; the same one that was destroyed so long ago by the LRA.
The GDPU is working hard to help people living with disabilities, whether the injuries are a result of the war in Northern Uganda or not. Onen Francis is a great example of someone who has benefited from the actions of the GDPU, but the crucial factor is Onen’s own personal strength. He spent more than 20 years fighting and surviving on his own before the GDPU’s assistance, refusing to lose hope or to let his family do the same. It is people like Onen Francis that are the inspiration to the many people and organizations working to put Northern Uganda back on the path to peace and stability.
Posted By Bryan Lupton
Posted Jun 24th, 2009