Refugees International Japan visits refugee communities around the world on a regular basis so that we can see at first hand the kind of impact your donations have. We are used to hearing bad news from countries affected by war. However, the people we meet, who are doing their best for their families and their communities, always impress our teams. Their resilience is amazing. The programs we fund help them to rebuild their lives and prepare for the return home.
Uganda has been terrorized by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) for 20 years. The resulting conflicts and civil war have affected people severely resulting in huge numbers of people fleeing their homes.
During the insurgency 1.8 million people were internally displaced. By the time of this visit the majority of them have returned to their regions of origin. However, although there is peace now, these people are still facing various challenges regarding trauma, livelihoods and use of land.
I visited two projects that RIJ has been funding:
Environmental Conservation Project
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Kitgum staff were very pleased with the project, and told me that RIJ funding had been the springboard for larger projects. I visited the tree nursery, supporting people to plant, eat and sell their own fruit. Drought conditions were causing huge problems, but with their positive attitude and creative ideas for facilitating the situation, people were clearly encouraged. I was impressed by Francis who heads up the project because he was always able to suggest ideas for handling the problems.
The teacher in charge of the eco- clubs in the schools told me that her family was now able to enjoy fresh fruit that they grew themselves. I met the students who head up the eco-clubs and I learnt of their pride in showing their families how to grow food at home. Then I went to meet the student welcome committee who performed two songs - several were wearing T-shirts with the LWF logo, the eco-club logo and RIJ on one sleeve.
I also met farmers who have benefited from the distribution of seeds. Not only had they successfully grown different products such as cotton or fruit trees, but some of them also planned to become self sufficient in the future.
Provision of re-settlement kits for returnees
The project by M- Proj assists returnees in the northeastern region of Uganda, to re-settle in their villages by providing re-settlement kits.
I heard time and again that support provided through RIJ funding enabled people to send their children to school. This is clearly incredibly important and to be admired. People with almost nothing to live on and very basic housing put huge emphasis on schooling. The project is producing good results and beneficiaries are clearly doing better as a result. There is still so much more to do as people adjust to their new-found freedom and understand the environmental problems. The two stories to the right speak for themselves in terms of the impact from this funding.
Visiting an IDP camp
I wanted to meet people who have chosen to stay in the IDP camps, so we went to what they call a decongestion camp. People were moved from the mother camps to decongestion camps as they started the re-settlement process. The women we met were older or widowed. Their homes are just 3km from the camp and they have been back to plant but it is difficult for them to build a home without assistance and people who can help tend to exploit them. This is what they call ‘one leg in the camp and one leg in the village’.