The Eyes Have It

The orange-red sun was setting behind the tall July corn when I arrived after eighteen hours of flight, followed by eight more of bumpy, overland travel. I’d brushed up on my Ugandan history and current events in the lead up to this trip back in Los Angeles. It would be disingenuous to say that I was still not prepared for the level of penury I’d encounter in Pader, Uganda. Pader 1Indeed, I’d fully expected the half naked, filthy little children; the intermittent availability of power and water; the constant saturation of sweat and 30% deet, caked in red dirt; the choice of three items, the same three items, at all three meal times, for days on end; even the sense of western guilt that would overwhelm me each time I saw a woman walking a kilometer, back to her hut, with five gallons of water balanced on her head after I had just finished complaining about my food selection. I’d expected all of this. I’ve been to places like this before.

What I’d not expected on this trip to the war torn region of Northern Uganda, came through the anonymity of observation afforded mPader 2e for my role with Coaches Across Continents. Several months back, Nick had put the touch on me to shoot and edit an updated video for CAC. Intrigued by the notion of his partnering with a local organization that was working on reintegrating the former child soldiers and child “brides” of the Lord’s Resistance Army, I quickly accepted. When I was last in Uganda eight years ago, the horror still raged in the out-of-bounds north.

The Lord’s RePader 3sistance Army (LRA), simply put for those who do not recall, was a marauding rebel force in the north of Uganda that raided villages and abducted children, coercing them to murder and/or serve as sex slaves for the militia. Among other atrocities, these children were often put in the impossible situation of having to kill their own families or face certain death. Distraught parents, desiring any chance of life for their young ones, would tearfully plead with their own children to comply with the macabre orders of the night raiders. So, in a moment, a young person would be saddled with the recurring nightmare of, say, chopping off the heads of his parents, with a machete, at an age when most western children are on a track to be haunted by matters far less weighty.

Friends of Orphans (FRO) runs a local trade school program designed to reintegrate these shattered lives, robbed of everything, installing them back into the local communities. They’ve asked Coaches Across Continents to be involved in the “Sport for Development” part of their curriculum.

Everyday now, through the lens of my video and still cameras, I see the joy and laughter that has re-entered these now young adult lives. While our western coaches instruct the students from FRO on how to become Soccer for Life Skills coaches, I wander amidst the activity, freely glimpsing into the souls of these people – these Pader 4children. If that sounds too dramatic, be aware that to smile and laugh – to reach out at all – were efforts that one might have assumed these young people would never again have attempted. Inspired by the work of the dedicated volunteers of CAC, I look through a 200-millimeter zoom lens and see new found hope for Pader’s future. So candid is my view, for not being the direct focus of the students, that I am often rapt, intimately exposed to the unfettered jubilation in their eyes.

Kevin is filming the new Coaches Across Continents documentary in Pader, Uganda.  the new video will be ready in October 2011.

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2 Comments on “The Eyes Have It”

  1. Judith Evenden July 18, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Sounds wonderful Kevin. Thanks for sharing – Judith

  2. Mary Leonard July 20, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Great read as always Kev – proud of you, M

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