Fred Obala van ICUganda Service Centre is our man for the projects of the Green Valley Nursery and Primary Orphanage Centre & School (GVOS).
Herewith you read his own story. What he doesn't tell you is that besides the care for his own child, he also gives eight brothers and sisters a home, to give them a better future.
A special story from a committed young man.
My name is Obala Fred, born on 22nd June 1982. Am a Langi by tribe and Luo is my first language then English is my second language. Am a first born in a polygamy family of 14 children from 3 different mothers but one father. My father works as the parish chief of Olarokwon parish and our ancestral home is in Acoke village found in Lira district northern Uganda.
Grow up where
I was brought up in the most rural part of northern Uganda where the nearest school is 8kms and the nearest hospital is 70kms from my village. I love my culture because we use to attend a lot of parties, thampiano dance, and visit grandparents during school holidays and they could tell us histories how they use to survive in the past, types of animals etc.
Abducted by rebels
I was once abducted forcefully by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group in northern Uganda. I was trained to fight as rebel against government and the community. It was a horrible moment in my life but I managed to survive over that and am glad I resumed my studies while recovering from the whole trauma. I felt nobody protected me that is why I ended up the bush. I never talked to any counsellor or charity organization about it because during that stage the war was not yet attracting the attention of many NGO‟s. I was body guard of rebel commander who was shot dead in front battle between the LRA and government that was my moment of escaping when rebels were disorganized that moment. Murder, beating, drug abuse is the daily activity in the bush as a rebel.
Went to school
I started school in 1990 then in 1995 my parents took me to finish my primary school study in Karamoja for three years. I had to experience staying with culture (people) that does not put clothing instead they stay naked; they are warriors like maasai of kenya. Karamoja is considered one of the most remote parts of Africa with a lot of cultural shock.
Later on I progressed to high school, then to college to get diploma in Marketing and Business Management which I graduated in 2005. I am currently struggling to pay for myself to study at the university, and am studying Bachelor degree of Science in Project Planning and Management. I will finish this course in 2011 March. My dream is to advance my study within project and serve this country at the highest level possible.
Initiated a community project
When I came back from the bush war most of my relatives were killed, my parents ended up in the refugee camp until 2006, no food, no studies, no shelter, no health services and I was touched with how difficult a child soldier like me escaping from the bush can re-invent back their full momentum to rediscover their talents, values and means of productive life survival. Above all some came back and find all their parents have been killed or the parents were even killed in their present while abducting them. Then I initiated Acoke Rural Development Initiatives (ARDI-UGANDA) in 2004 as a youth war recovery centre found in Lira district northern Uganda. The project is focusing on helping young people affected by war to rediscover their full potentials gives skills to survive again. We want to play a proactive role in transforming our future but not to being aid recipient. Through the network of Nabuur we received Dutch used computers, the project now provides computer training to the youth.
We have got community rice milling machine from ICU Foundation and we are also developing new plans that can rebuild to us. While searching support for ARDI then I got to know Nabuur and its concepts which is flat form networking. I got expose to a number of activities, participated in many capacity building. I ended up heading over 25 community based projects in various parts of Uganda from 2005 to 2007. It was a great experience to deal with multiple tasks.
Working for AJUF
I work as project manager for International Contact Uganda (ICU) which is an NGO Service Centre based in Kampala. The major assignment from the Astrid Uganda Foundation is the Green Valley Orphanage School, located in Bwera Kasese. Our task is to do monitoring, making follow up on every steps and maintaining the regular communication between GVOS and AJUF. We are the eyes of AJUF on the ground all the time and it‟s our role/obligation to protect and implement the principles of AJUF on the ground. It was a very challenging task when my Boss Sander Van Zanten assigned me to lead this project to success. The culture or way of doing things in Kasese is far different from how the Dutch people think or expect, so we had to strike a balance and get the best out it.
Not like many projects I have experienced, the Astrid Uganda Foundation is exactly in for the local community in the sense that management, control, ownership, participation and sustainability are directly in the hands of the community. This is very stimulating and attractive to local Uganda themselves to participate in changing their community. AJUF gives space for community to develop their own theory, way forward of solving their problem which is self empowerment not aid recipient.
The concept of sustainability is very much advocated approach within AJUF principles and this directly connected with my way of thinking for the society. It‟s interesting how openly AJUF communicates to the community about the need for them to take their own lead in initiating and sustaining their own project from day one. The team behind this foundation is motivating to work with and they emerged from difficult time of Astrid death, that alone created the hidden inspiration that we are on a mission to fulfil something. Besides just working for AJUF, my ideas or opinion is always integrated in the project that empowers me and shows the value I have in the project. It would have never been possible if am working for a big NGO. If many NGOs would also accept Africans to take the lead in contributing their views on issues that affect them, a lot of donor money would have succeeded more than now.
My dream is to serve longer for a community based foundation like this and out of it I will hopefully develop me into a great leader. I hope in 20 years from now I will be able to contribute to changing Uganda into a self sustainable country by empowering local population not only investors and politicians. “A brave man makes his own luck” and that is what am up to.
I have adjusted a lot of things in my life personally and culturally. I look at people and equally treat them with dignity. I want to take part in changing my community mentality from looking at a white person as ATM machine into a fellow human being striving for success. Working with Dutch for 7 years now puts me in a situation balancing my manners, attitude and better way of dealing with expectations. Am looking forward to write a book, “My Dutch time”. I noted that the level of independency is high when you work with Dutch. My bosses don‟t tell me a lot of what and how to do things but they expect a lot from me.”