FORMER LRA CHILD SOLDIER AND CHILD MOTHER
The story of “Dr. Grace Atim” was told in the previously published article by Father Okun Lagoro Matthew entitled Who Touched Me? . This is a personal message from her, in response to that article, about her experience and her hopes for the post-war children of Northern Uganda.
Hello friends, my name is Dr. Palma Aceng currently an Intern Doctor in Gulu Regional Referral Hospital. Rev. Father Matthew Okun Lagoro wrote and sent to you an article about Dr. Grace Atim. That article entitled WHO TOUCHED ME? was about me. I am writing this follow-up article because I would like to thank the Almighty God for giving us such an opportunity to communicate and to thank Him for preserving me and many Children in Northern Uganda in His miraculous ways.
Actually, what Father Okun-Lagoro Matthew wrote about me was a true, sad, traumatic and an amazing story which has come to pass but will always be remembered and learnt from for generations to come. I happened to be one of the 30 Aboke girls taken into captivity by the LRA after they released 109 girls. My school (St. Mary’s College Aboke-Lira) was attacked by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) on the 9/10/1996. St. Mary’s College is a missionary school of girls in northern Uganda.
I want, through this article, to give special thanks and tribute to our Headmistress the late Rev. Sr. Alba Burlo (RIP) and her Deputy Rev. Sr. Rachelle. They were a team of dedicated Comboni Missionaries Sisters who encouraged us spiritually to overcome whatever trial and hardships would come our way. They were so courageous that they kept following us both in the bush and later also to Southern Sudan though their efforts to have us released were frustrated by the rebels. It was from them that I learnt the importance of prayers and the great value of perseverance.
When I was saved by God 12 years later I was blessed to have met with Father Matthew a Diocesan priest of Gulu Archdiocese after a Holy Mass presided over by him in thanksgiving for my safe return from captivity. My little boy whom I came back with was strapped on my back. I named him Emmanuel (God with us).
Father Matthew gave me great spiritual guidance and has been a great source of inspiration and support to me ever since. He encouraged me as a young child mother about the importance of going back to school and building my life all over again. He gave me spiritual and moral strength to work very hard and focus on whatever task I had before me because there were times when a mere thought of my child’s future crossed my mind I went back to him for spiritual guidance.
Today as I write this article I believe and I know that formal education to higher levels for children who underwent my kind of experience as child soldiers and sex slaves and even street kids offers unlimited opportunity for them and for their communities and nations for the future of all. I must also add that every child who was brutalized by social systems in the world deserves to be restored to normalcy by the same social systems and nations. Formal education is a cardinal tool to this effect.
I want to conclude that through the connection for assistance that I got for my studies (first degree) to an Italian priest Rev. Fr. John Scalabrini, a man with a BIG HEART, I pray that God may open many more BIG HEARTS in men and women of goodwill who will come promptly to the rescue of children in dire need of formal education in the post-war Northern Uganda.
I finally appeal to you who read and share this article to continue praying for all of us whose fate allowed us to experience life that way and lived to tell the stories afterwards.
Through reading and sharing this article with one another, you enable me to do the GOOD TURN I should do to others by being their advocate as others had done to me and together we may help others get a worthy formal education for them to stand on their own.
Emmanuel Emmanuel with his mother, Dr. Palma Aceng, at her graduation!
To See previous article about “Dr. Atim” please see He Touched Me
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