"Rebel Attack," an image from "The Secrets of War," a compilation of drawings
of Ugandan school children. U-TOUCH is working to help young Ugandans move forward after the war.
The children’s colored drawings are remarkably detailed. What is even more startling are the events they depict.
Burning villages. Chained prisoners. Executions. Beheadings.
Such are the images of Uganda’s 20-year civil war which concluded in 2006 with the expulsion of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army from the country. But the trauma is seared in the memories of young people who had no business witnessing such brutality.
Despite their experiences, the young people of Uganda have begun to move forward, partly with the help of organizations like U-TOUCH
, which aims to bridge the digital divide in third-world nations.
Based in San Diego and founded in 2007 by philanthropists Deb and Ron Plotkin, U-TOUCH has established computer centers in five Ugandan cities: Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Katine, and Kabale. Training at these Digital Library Centers is free to participants. Knowledgeable Ugandans serve as trainers in such skills as IT, health education, business skills, conflict resolution, and digital art.
“The people are brilliant. It’s just that now they have the ability to create solutions to their problems,” said Deb Plotkin, who currently serves as the group’s executive director. She says computer equipment alone doesn’t do people much good; it’s only when the technology is taught that people can begin to use it to their advantage.
Recent contributions by CompTIA Member Communities and others have allowed Plotkin and her volunteer team to imagine new ways for U-TOUCH to impact the country’s tech infrustructure. For example, in Gulu is a rural hospital that lacks running water and a means for doctors and nurses to communicate from a distance with other health professionals. “The hospital has a generator and has offered a small room for us to set up computers and an internet connection,” Plotkin says.
It’s not hard to understand why Uganda has fallen behind in terms of tech infrastructure. From 1986 to 2006 the northern part of the country was terrorized by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Child soldiers were made to commit and witness horrific acts. As a way to help young people work through the pain, U-TOUCH sponsored a project to collect children’s art and their stories.
The result is “The Secrets of War,” a spellbinding book of color drawings and personal anecdotes from young people and witnesses to the war’s brutality — as well as images of healing and hope. Purchases help fund U-TOUCH. To learn more about the book or to make a purchase, go here