Jamyel Jenifer

Jamyel Jenifer (Uganda): Jamyel graduated In 2006 from Spelman College in Atlanta, where she majored in French with a concentration in Pre-Medicine. As an undergraduate student, Jamyel also participated in a semester domestic exchange program at Wellesley College and a summer French Immersion program in Martinique. She then worked as a Pre-Service Assistant in the Office of Medical Services of Peace Corps and went on to serve for two years as the Health Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa where she worked on women’s reproductive rights. At the time of her AP fellowship, Jamyel was studying for a Masters degree in International Development and Social Change at Clark University in Worcester. After her fellowship Jaymel wrote: "[I] learned about how grassroots organizations function and about the effectiveness of using radio."

The Gideon Foundation Against Child Sacrifice

16 Jun

The Gideon Foundation Against Child Sacrifice (GIFACS) was founded in 2007 by Santos and Leah Labeja. They founded this non-profit organization after their son, Gideon, was kidnapped and murdered in an act of child sacrifice when he was 4 years old in 2006. He was taken by a man who was staying in the courtyard of the school where Santos works as the headmaster. The man who kidnapped and murdered Gideon was from Gulu, located in the norther region of Uganda, and was one of the persons displaced by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). After the LRA attacked the northern regions of Uganda they then spread to others and attacked Soroti in what I’ve been told was 2003. Santos, who is originally from Gulu, had invited his displaced relatives and other people from where he is from to stay within the school’s courtyard. The man who murdered Gideon was one of these displaced persons staying in the school’s courtyard and he was actually from the same ethnic group as Santos. Gideon was lured away using a musical Christmas card and was taken to a nearby house where he was mutilated, strangled and then his body was thrown under the bed. Some of his body parts were taken by the man with hopes that it would bring him riches as he was told by a witchdoctor. Some of the other children, including some of the siblings of Gideon, were witnesses to the muder as they peeked through a crack in the door of the house during the incident. They then alerted others. Gideon was Mrs. Labeja’s only son.

Photo of Gideon

The man was caught by authorities but was eventually allowed to escape. Since then the Labeja’s have devoted their efforts to ending child sacrifice. Leah is currently back in school pursuing a degree in social work as she would like to help other families cope.

The Gideon Foundation is devoted to ending child sacrifice by raising awareness about the practice and aspires to push forward a law in Uganda specifically against it. Their activities include travelling to neighboring villages and speaking to people about child sacrifice; that it won’t bring you riches and telling children and parents the steps they can take to try and prevent it. Santos has found a team of lawyers to help him in drafting a proposed law that the Gideon Foundation hopes the Ugandan Parliament will one day pass. They also speak and counsel family survivors of child sacrifice and collect as much data as they can on child sacrifice cases in Uganda. Everything that the Gideon Foundation has been given was through donations. For example, Santos and Leah were both previously able to speak on several radio stations a few times about child sacrifice because they were offered free radio spots at night. Also, the website of the Gideon Foundation was created and is maintained by a generous family in Kampala who heard of Santos’ story and decided to help.

But their activities are limited as the Gideon Foundation currently has no funding source. The only way they have been able to implement any projects is through the pockets of Mr. and Mrs. Labeja. Also, Santos is the co-founder and head of another organization called Community Care Services which provides services to the district of Soroti in many fields including education, health, etc. In one of their projects, Community Care Services, built the Soroti Central Secondary School and one of the buildings in the school’s courtyard houses Community Care Services. The Gideon Foundation is also currently located in this building as well since Community Care Services has offered them support by allowing them to use a room in their building. This room is temporary until the Gideon Foundation locates funding to build its office on a plot of land located near the grave of Gideon, which is located in the neighboring district of Amuria (where Mrs. Labeja is from).

When the Gideon Foundation launched in 2007, they held a march around Soroti. This demonstration not only included a march all around the town of Soroti, but speeches by Santos and religious leaders and performances by schoolchildren. This event was not only to signal that the Gideon Foundation is here but it was also an opportunity for those affected by child sacrifice to vent. (I was given a copy of a video that was taken of the march and will post it soon)

The staff of the Gideon Foundation are all currently volunteers. These volunteers are Santos Labeja, the executive director, and then there are 2 volunteer social workers, Dorothy and Stella (will insert photo of them here soon).

My typical day starts at the Gideon Foundation office where I meet with Santos and then Dorothy and Stella. We, Dorothy and I and sometimes Stella comes too, usually head out to conduct an interview somewhere. Things always come up by my typical day usually starts like this.

Posted By Jamyel Jenifer

Posted Jun 16th, 2011

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