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A Testimonial from a WPDI Youth Peacemaker in Uganda: Monday Collins

My name is Monday. I was born and I grew up in during the war. I was abducted and enrolled as a child soldier at age nine for two years. I saw people being killed. I saw girls being forced into marriage. Being a child soldier does terrible things to you because you are at the same time a victim and a perpetrator. Nobody knows where to stand on this, including yourself.

I had the opportunity to join the Hope North school where many students are former child soldiers like me. It is through Hope North that I could recover from my trauma and that I eventually joined WPDI. I learned a lot thanks to the trainings in ICTs, in business and in mediation. I feel privileged to have been able to learn all these skills.

I received a lot and I want to give back. Presently there is no war in northern Uganda, but peace is still not there. We have issues with HIV/AIDS, youth unemployment and youth violence. It is important to work at the community level to address these issues. WPDI has helped me become an active promoter of peace, which goes beyond a simple healing or recovery. It has taken me from the worst part of my life to the best part of it. My mental growth allowed me to become a leader. I know I can change the lives of two people who can in turn change the lives of two other people – and so on.

Promoting peace is not always easy though. A big challenge when we go into remote communities is the perception among many people that only money matters. Their sole idea is that the knowledge and the support provided by WPDI should help them make money quickly. We try to change these notions. We try to identify activities that young people will be interested in and which will not involve receiving money – like sports. For adults, we can use other channels, like drama, or we try to blend WPDI’s work into their preexisting activities.

In the end, we find ways to make it work by engaging communities on concrete issues, such as school dropouts, forced marriage or drug abuse. We work to give them business skills that will help them translate their ideas into jobs.  The biggest lesson I learned from WPDI is that you must work together to address your problems before they become overwhelming.