From refugee camps to brighter futures

The Rwenzori Mountains in Western Uganda boast some of the most breathtaking scenes on the whole continent. Despite their beauty, however, their recent history is dark and troubled.

The Rwenzori Mountains, sometimes referred to as "The Mountains of the Moon'' (Credits: Misugo/Getty)

The mountain range has been used as a sanctuary for a variety of violent rebel groups since Uganda’s independence. The people who have settled there often fall victim to their attacks.


In a brutal war in 1996, rebels attacked and massacred many members of a community living nearby, leaving many orphans with nowhere to go, no families to care for them.


The survivors of the massacre fled the hills and began to live in refugee camps. These camps eventually became the town of Kyarumba.


When the army arrived to engage the rebels, they also began to bribe the vulnerable and desperate orphans into engaging in sex work. This led to a large AIDS problem in the town.


The Kyarumba Anti-Aids Youth Group was formed with the goal of providing a future for these orphans and vulnerable young people, who previously had no prospects outside of sex work.



The locals started the group in 2002 and built a training centre on a patch of land, which they rent from the local church for a low price.


Initially, they struggled to find the correct tools in order to train all of their students. The mindset of the town’s youths is another issue, as it is difficult to keep them away from criminal activity. Theft, drugs, and sex work are all incredibly common.


The group is trying to help them focus on skills, not crime, which is a huge task for a town that hasn’t had any alternatives for so long.


 

Their fortune changed in 2017 when they applied for tools from TWAM, which allowed them to offer a lifeline to orphans and young people living in extreme poverty. Currently, the tools are all used to train the students, but they are hoping to receive even more tools to allow them to give a toolkit to every graduate.


In 2019, the group trained 150 students. They have now established 12 carpentry workshops and 6 tailoring workshops. They have come such a long way, and can be very proud of their achievements.


They seek out the most vulnerable members of their community, especially orphans and school dropouts. They look at the background of their families and offer training opportunities to those who are living in extreme poverty.


Their efforts also extend beyond skills training. The group has planted over 2000 trees to replace those that they use in their carpentry projects. They work together to keep bees and sell honey, generating more income for their group. They also fund their work selling furniture and tree seedlings, as well as with contributions from their members’ savings.



The story of this group is both heart-wrenching and deeply inspiring. In the face of such suffering, they have risen above their limitations and created opportunities where there once was only exploitation and pain.


They still have their challenges, but we have no doubts that they will overcome them as well, and continue to give life-changing skills to vulnerable youths. We are so proud of them, and so happy that our work was able to help them.

 

Would you like to support organisations like The Kyarumba Anti-Aids Youth Group and help to give life-changing opportunites to people living in extreme poverty?


Consider giving us a donation to support our work. Just £25 would cover the costs of collecting and refurbishing one sewing machine for a developing community.



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