The war-torn country of Uganda has received a lot attention in recent weeks because of a widely seen video documentary on the rebel leader Kony. “KONY 2012,” which has very effectively used the internet, is a 30-minute film that aims to raise awareness around the world about the actions of the alleged Ugandan war criminal and has already been seen by more than 86 million people.
Uganda is one of the areas in which Children for Tomorrow is focused. For the past three years, we have operated an ambulance at the local hospital in Gulu / Northern Uganda, where we offer physical and psychological therapy for traumatized children and their families. Our treatment team, consists of one doctor, two nurses and a social worker, who work with an ever-growing number of children.
Since the ceasefire 6 years ago, things have calmed and many families took advantage of the opportunity to leave the refugee camps and return to their villages to cultivate their fields. However, the 20-year war has left deep emotional, physical and social scars that will take decades to heal. While many NGOs have already left the town of Gulu to travel to more acute crisis areas, our goals have centered around working here with the war-affected children and families. We are currently constructing the first Children for Tomorrow hut which will house our ambulance and which the children will also be able to use as an additional therapy and games room. The foundations are all ready and we look forward to being able to offer therapeutic services in about a month.
Many war-traumatized children are not able to find their way to us because their parents and teachers often do not recognize the relationship between traumatic experiences from the war and the problems at school or in the family. So in the future, we want to do more work outside of our clinic and seek needy children locally. We intend to introduce school programs that have already proven to be successful in Hamburg. To this end, a few weeks ago Fionna Klasen (selected psychologist CFT Hamburg), James Okello (psychiatrist CFT Uganda) and Catherine Kiemer (school psychologist and currently an intern at CFT) initiated the pilot project “CFT mental health club,” a school for war-traumatized children in Gulu. In the afternoons, we to talk to children about their concerns, needs, desires and hopes, and hopefully improve their mental health. It is important that children and their parents and teachers be aware of the symptoms and effects of psychological trauma and that they know where they can go for help. Children who suffer from severe symptoms, will continue to be treated in our clinic. We hope to be able to offer our “mental health CFT club” in other schools and to be able to reach as many children as possible in their local schools.