I am Somebody’s Child Soldier (IamSCS) was founded by a group of lawyers and humanitarians after a visit to Uganda in December 2013. During the trip the founders were disturbed by the plight of rescued child soldiers and victims of war in Uganda, and the lack of mental health support available for those affected by post-war trauma.
Upon their return to London, they decided to do something about it. The charity was subsequently registered with the charity commission on 8th July 2014 with the intention of helping to improve access to mental health services, well-being and basic needs for former child soldiers and victims of war in Northern Uganda.
laroo Boarding School
After conducting field research about the facilities available for former child soldiers in Gulu, Northern Uganda, IamSCS partnered with Laroo Boarding School, a former school for rescued child soldiers, and planned to help build a rehabilitation centre to annex Laroo Boarding School so that the pupils suffering from mental trauma could receive access to basic needs and on-going psychotherapy treatment.
In July 2014, the trustees of the charity visited Laroo Boarding School and donated food items and clothes to children. The trustees also visited the local community leaders to establish strong ties between the charity and the community and to create a long lasting relationship that would ease the deliverance of the charity objectives at the school.
It was found that a high number of pupils and community members viewed psychotherapy as a western concept and many were initially reluctant about talking about it. Based on the recommendations from the headmistress, local doctors, community leaders and the assessment of needs conducted by the project manager working on the ground, IamSCS focused on the immediate needs of the children by providing clothing and food supplies which was found to be sorely lacking, whilst also continuing to fundraise for its long term goal of opening the rehabilitation centre.
Unfortunately, towards the end of 2014, Laroo Boarding School was threatened with closure due to a significant decline in government funding and financial mismanagement. IamSCS worked closely with the headmistress and local leaders to establish a plan to strengthen the school’s mission of catering for former child soldiers and avoid closure..
Laroo Boarding School Closure
beginning of 2015, IamSCS worked closely with a senior public health
specialist in the Ministry of Health Uganda to provide technical support
to IamSCS and Laroo Boarding School to ensure coherence and
responsiveness to the needs of the beneficiaries and advocate against
the closure of the school. IamSCS drafted a comprehensive work plan in
partnership with the school management, families of children, and
Activities proposed in the work plan were identified following a pre-visit to the school where discussions were held with the school management and district authorities, that is, inspector of schools and LCV chairperson. These activities included; establishing a formal steering committee to work with IamSCS to ensure harmonized and owned program in the school and community; sensitization of district leaders; sensitization of school teachers and pupils; supplementing in-school feeding of children; providing take home food rations; and providing water purification tablets.
In April 2015, IamSCS held a stakeholders meeting in Gulu, Northern Uganda with members of the Board of Laroo Boarding School and district leaders who included; the LCV Chairperson, Secretary for Social Services/Education, Inspector of Schools, District Education Officer, Municipal Education Officer, Town Clerk, and Community Development Officer. This was an important sensitization meeting that focused on discussing the work plan, objectives, activities and target beneficiaries of the program. It was expected that participants would continue to support the program activities through advocacy and mobilization of cost share resources to supplement IamSCS contribution. IamSCS also presented for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the school and the district to form the basis for implementation of the work plan.
Despite IamSCS’s best efforts, Laroo Boarding School closed in 2015 with most of the former child soldiers now scattered across Northern Uganda. A few joined other schools whilst some others joined the army. Regrettably, the majority of the children dropped out of school since they could not afford school fees for higher education.
Establishing New Partnerships
Since the closure of the school, IamSCS has been working closely with our senior staff and partners on the ground to establish strong relationships with local organisations and institutions working to support former child soldiers and victims of war in Northern Uganda.
In March 2016 we established a partnership with FIDA Uganda to help develop and implement programs for former child soldiers/women returnees and their children, by providing support that will enhance-
Personal development and rehabilitation
More information can be found here.
The charity is currently working on establishing a new campaign in which it will be able to support some of the pupils that had previously attended Laroo Boarding School and other former child soldiers and victims of war living in Gulu, Northern Uganda. More information can be found here.