The work in Pader, Uganda with former Child Soldiers

July 19th, 2010.   Our team of coaches are working one of our most challenging partnerships with a wonderful organization called FRO in Pader, Uganda.  The overall aim of FRO is to reintegrate former child soldiers into the community through work and social training.  Our coaches designed a unique program whereby these former child soldiers and orphans are trained to be Soccer for Life Skill Coaches with the Coaches across Continents curriculum and then these locally trained coaches go to work in primary schools to educate young children.  It is an ambitious program that is already showing signs of success.

The LRA in Northern Uganda abducted more than 23,000 children to fight for their cause.  Often the children were forced to kill their own family, ensuring that they had nothing to go back to.  Although the war has been over for a couple of years, the leader of the LRA is still at large and the former child soldiers are having to reintegrate into a distrusting society.

Coach Ivan writes, “The program with Coaches Across Continents and FRO is set up so that in the mornings we meet with one of the FRO classes and do the activities with them and then in the afternoon we do the sessions with an actual primary or secondary school class where the FRO students can progressively get involved in the coaching process.”

Ricky, the founder of FRO and Francis, their program director have recognized the power of sport for social development and have encouraged the students to become part of this program.  While they were initially surprised by our insistence that girls be part of the program, they made sure that all the girls attended the sessions.  Many of the girls at FRO were kidnapped by the LRA and were raped by the soldiers so that there are many small children at the center. Coach Sophie commented about one of the young children, “Morris, (one of the children) had a foot that got badly burnt: his skin had come off and the top of his foot was red and white. He received an injection for the pain and some kind of cream to apply on it but nothing to actually protect the burn from infection. He was walking around in the dust on all fours trying to get hold of one of our balls and I fear that in a few days his foot will be badly infected.”

Coaches Ivan, Sophie and Steve have committed themselves to this 8 week program with enthusiasm and resolve.  Conditions in Pader are remote and Sophie writes, “In Pader, the unmistakable signs of poverty reflected by the wretched living conditions, the state of the roads and of the very few buildings and the significant lack of resources do not shock me as much as the little peculiarities I witness that are considered as normal here and that make me realize the enormous gap between this world and the one back home. The daily glimpses into the lives of some amazing people have made my experience so worthwhile and give me more insight into what the life of these people is like.”.

But the spirit of the young people at the FRO center and their enthusiasm for learning these new skills has been incredible.

“Of all of the Coaches across Continents programs, the FRO Pader Program presented the most challenges.  FRO had previously not used soccer as a life skill tool and we had to introduce the very basics for coaching.  But immediately the students wanted to talk and play soccer, they wanted to learn these new skills and were excited at the thought of being able to become coaches themselves and help young children in the community.  The spirit of all these students and of FRO has made the first year in Pader a great success.  We congratulate our coaches and everyone connected with FRO for all their hard work”  Nick Gates, Global Strategist.

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