Hearing about the humanitarian crisis in 2004 through personal links, five independent students were profoundly moved by the situation in Uganda and decided that they wanted to and could make a difference. Between 2004 and 2006, they would all visit the region, some on more than one occasion, building personal links with local people, community groups and NGOs. In August 2006, the five decided to use their shared vision to form the basis of Heart of Compassion Trust which would enable them to practically help the wider Acholi community in a formal manner.
Following a period of consolidation, consultation and forward planning, Heart of Compassion Trust signed its Deed of Trust on 18 November 2006. This has been formally accepted by the Charity Commission in the UK, who have provided Heart of Compassion Trust with charity registration.
Heart of Compassion Trust aims to work alongside community groups, NGOs, and charities that reach out to those affected by the conflict, particularly to benefit the areas of education, aiding the relief of poverty, and provision of Christian teaching. Whilst doing this, it aims to increase awareness in the UK of the humanitarian situation in northern Uganda, and also to demonstrate what can be achieved by working alongside local groups.
About the Conflict:
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has waged a guerrilla war leading to acts of brutal violence and terror against the Acholi community of northern Uganda. It has forcibly recruited almost 20,000 children through child abduction to act as porters, child soldiers and sex slaves. This has torn holes in the Acholi community. Consequently, up to two million people (over 90% of the population of northern Uganda) have been uprooted from their villages, losing their livelihoods in the process, and have been forced to settle in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps, which lack basic infrastructure and have poor levels of sanitation.
The overall effect has been a sense of desperation amongst the Acholi community. A whole generation of children are growing up in IDP camps, the majority of whom have lost a family member as a result of the conflict. A lack of trust within families and communities has developed as a result of the horrific practices employed by the LRA.
With livelihoods lost until the LRA’s terror subsides, many families exist on handouts and whatever small income they can get. The result of this is many children are unable to attend school since they cannot pay the school fees or maintenance fees that are stipulated. Due to the insecurity, many schools have had to abandon their premises and move to within easy reach of IDP camps, often at the expense of one set of school buildings housing two schools. The situation that remains is that either very few children attend school due to non-payment of fees, or the schools take on children without payment of fees and as a result are severely under funded. Out of each of these scenarios, serious issues arise, which need to be dealt with.