JRS has accompanied internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kitgum, northern Uganda since 2006. The 20-year conflict between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government meant that nearly 95 percent of the population had to move into IDP camps while fleeing from a range of atrocities.
This left a traumatised population dependent on international assistance, particularly children and young adults. The peace process started in 2006, and after a comprehensive needs assessment revealed large unmet needs in terms of education and psychosocial support, JRS began working with the population.
In March 2012 the project wound down as JRS felt the communities were now in a position to sustain their own support services. During this period, JRS accompanied IDPs on their journeys home, and provided the tools and support for them to re-settle in their villages of origin. Over the six years of the project, more than 47,000 IDPs were either directly or indirectly assisted by JRS to resettle and rebuild their lives.
Education was a key tenet of the Kitgum project. Many young adults had grown up in the camps and were denied access to education. Adult literacy and vocational training courses were important to build skills for young people and help the returnees adapt to life outside the camp. The JRS Community College was very successful in training young people in practical skills such as catering and carpentry, and many progressed to start their own businesses and employ other community members.
The psychosocial element of the project was crucial for assisting the IDPs to move forward. Many suffered from ongoing post-traumatic stress and flashbacks of violent conflict. Former child soldiers needed specialised support to come to terms with their past. Harsh life in the camps also encouraged destructive coping mechanisms, such as alcohol abuse and domestic violence, and support was needed to find new opportunities for the affected to engage in positive activities.
JRS paid close attention to the needs of extremely vulnerable individuals and helped child-headed households, older people, and persons with severe disabilities relocate and build new homes.
Woven throughout the project was the importance of peace building and reconciliation. Training of community members and peace groups to strengthen existing conflict resolution structures was essential in order to support the development of lasting peace in the region.
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Eastern Africa is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organisation founded by the Society of Jesus.
In eastern Africa JRS is currently implementing 13 projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, reaching out to over 105,000 refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees. JRS Eastern Africa provides education, psychosocial support, pastoral care, peace-education, livelihoods services and emergency relief and is involved in human rights protection and advocacy activities on different levels.
Altogether, there are over eight million refugees and internally displaced persons in the whole region, including Somalia.
JRS started working in Africa in the early 1980s. One of the earliest commitments was in Ethiopia, providing food, shelter and medical aid to thousands of people displaced within their own country by war and famine.
In the early 1990s the JRS Eastern Africa region was established with the regional office based in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 1992 one of the biggest and longest serving JRS projects was set up in Adjumani, northern Uganda, assisting Sudanese refugees mainly through education and pastoral care. It was closed in 2008, after 75 schools were handed over to the government and most of the refugees were repatriated to Southern Sudan, now helping to rebuild their country, with the skills they gained during their exile in Adjumani.
Today, JRS's biggest operations in eastern Africa are in Southern Sudan, providing support in education, peace-building and pastoral accompaniment.
Uganda: Substance abuse, the struggle is far from over
Kitgum, 20 May 2011 – Although much has been achieved in the last four years of JRS's counselling training and public awareness projects, a lot still needs to be done to eradicate substance abuse among returnee communities in northern Uganda.
Uganda: substance abuse, the struggle is far from over
Kitgum, 20 May 2011 – Although much has been achieved in the last four years counselling training and public awareness projects, a lot still needs to be done to eradicate substance abuse among returnee communities in northern Uganda.
Uganda: JRS empowers IDPs in the north
Kitgum, 7 March 2011 - While northern Uganda continues to recover from a more than two decade long conflict, JRS prepares returnees to fully take charge of their lives.
Uganda: northerners doubtful about benefit of elections
Kitgum, 25 February 2011 – More than two million northerners, majority of whom are formerly internally displaced persons (IDPs), have voted in the presidential and parliamentary elections. However, many doubt the polls will bring any real benefit to their lives.
Uganda: JRS assists 50 displaced persons to return home
Kitgum, 21 February 2011 – Fifty formerly displaced persons were able to return home to their villages after JRS built small houses for them.
Uganda: JRS builds houses for 50 formerly displaced in the north
Kitgum, 22 February 2011 – Fifty formerly displaced persons were able to return home to their villages after JRS built small houses for them.
Uganda: Northerners doubtful about benefit of elections
Kitgum, 18 February 2011 – More than two million northerners, majority of whom are formerly internally displaced persons (IDPs), will vote in today’s presidential and parliamentary elections but many doubt the polls will bring any real benefit to their lives.
Uganda: Reaching out to rebuild cultural identity
Kitgum, 14 July 2010 — During the Ugandan conflict between the government and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the once respected elders of the ethnic Acholi people slowly lost their authority and the respect of younger people.
Uganda: reaching out to rebuild cultural identity
Kitgum (Uganda), 14 July 2010 - During the Ugandan conflict between the government and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the once respected elders of the ethnic Acholi people slowly lost their authority and the respect of younger people.
Uganda: JRS trains 39 cultural leaders in Kitgum
Kitgum, 5 June 2009 — The peace building and conflict transformation programme of JRS Kitgum recently completed the training of 39 mostly male cultural leaders in Kitgum District. The leaders, Kal-Kwato, were trained in mediation and reconciliation during April and May.
Uganda: The Acholi way of coping with the effects of war
Gulu, 13 March 2009 — As reported by IRIN on March 13, internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Gulu, which have returned to their villages in northern Uganda’s Acholi sub-region after two decades of camp life have found human skeletons on their land. Since members of the Acholi culture believe that keeping these skeletons on their land will bring them misfortune, the discovery created fear among the returnees. The IDPs therefore demanded the burial of the skeletons and the cleansing of the land by the Rwodi Moo, their cultural leaders mandated to conduct the required rituals. In Gulu and Amuru Districts 13 skeletons have been buried and cleansing ceremonies performed in 17 villages to ensure a smooth resettlement of the IDPs.
Uganda: IDPs fear worsening of situation in the North
Kitgum, 19 January 2009 — Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Uganda fear a worsening of the situation after the joint military offensive by Uganda, Congo and South Sudan on the Lord’s Resistance Army’s base in north-eastern Congo (LRA) on December 14, 2008.
Uganda: Children forced to quit school as food aid is cut
Kitgum, 5 December 2008 — Over the past three months, thousands of children have dropped out of primary school in northern Uganda due to lack of food and poor learning conditions. As reported by IRIN, statistics from the district education office showed a 6.1 percent rise in drop-out rates, many of them girls below the age of 15.
Uganda: new JRS education and training project
From 9 until 16 January, a five-day seminar was held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to inform local and regional NGOs of what is referred to in the USA as the community college initiative: The idea is to establish a college in either an urban or rural setting based on a sound need analysis of educational needs and desires of an identified target group and employment opportunities and potential that exist in the area.
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