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I remember seeing Daniel’s face on the front of Trócaire’s Lenten Box in 2012 and wondering about what life must be like in his village in northern Uganda – imagine my amazement just a few weeks ago when I found myself standing with Daniel in that very village!
It was a great privilege to meet the young boy whose face already seemed so familiar to me. Since his story featured on the Lenten box four years ago, Daniel has continued his schooling and now attends a primary boarding school in nearby Lira.
He still wants to be a doctor, just as he said in the video from four years ago.
We sat with Daniel and his family, and heard his mother Betty say how proud she is of her son. Emmanuel, who is Daniel’s older brother, is also studying and wants to become a nurse.
He entertained us with a song, played with a musical instrument similar to a ukulele, which spoke of Trócaire’s help to his family. It was a very touching moment.
In nearby Barlonyo, we visited the site where approximately 400 people were massacred by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2004.
It was very emotional and heart-rending to be standing in an area where such murder and torture had taken place just 12 years previously, and a reminder of the horrors experienced by people like Daniel and his family in the past.
Meeting Daniel’s family was just one part of a week-long trip to Uganda to show Trócaire’s work to eleven priests from the Archdiocese of Dublin who have greatly supported our fundraising efforts over the years.
It was my first adventure into the African continent. My first impressions of Uganda, as we descended into Entebbe, was of green fields and dirt roads.
I was struck by the thousands of people on the sides of the road trying to make a living, mannequins mostly with women’s dresses on display on grass side banks, the crazy traffic which included motorbikes and minivan taxis, and lots of women carrying baskets on their heads.
The red soil of the road, leading into many shanty-style villages, was a stark contrast to landing in Dublin Airport and driving into the city centre.
We met some incredible people on our short visit to the country. In Mbikko we met 60 community activists who are undergoing community based health programmes and volunteering in their own village communities.
I was really touched by the story of another Daniel, a married man with nine children. He stated that the training he received on the programme changed his behaviour towards the care he gave his wife and children and his life is much better now.
At a women’s group we heard the personal stories of the women and their challenges with domestic violence and their efforts now to address the imbalance of power within their own community.
Interestingly, their group included four men, which emphasises the work of the community activists to change attitudes and behaviours.
These projects, and the many others we visited during our stay in Uganda, left a huge impression on everybody in our group.
The sense of humanity from everybody we met as they recalled the challenges they have faced was insightful, inspiring and life-changing.
by Colm Hogan, Trócaire Church Officer