Tragedy is common among children in war torn Northern Uganda. Twenty plus years of civil war have left thousands of youth maimed, undernourished, poverty stricken, and often orphaned. Each one of these children has a unique story. As survivors, their stories weave the fabric that will rebuild their homeland. They are the future of this vast impoverished area of Uganda.

So how does a nation heal? How do you turn sadness into joy, fear into hope, and despair into believing there is a brighter tomorrow? The one clear answer is love – love from strangers who know life to be so different for their own children and understand ways in which their love can really make a difference in the lives of children they will never physically touch or see.

beatrice-with-frameBeatrice Kitima has been touched by the love of strangers. Orphaned at age three from the rigors of war, Beatrice and her siblings were cared for first by a grandmother, then an aunt. The challenge was to stay alive, to feed and clothe the children, and to provide shelter and safety.  The educational system had collapsed, and any aid from the government was directed to displaced persons. Beatrice’s aunt worked very hard to keep the family together, and to provide the fees necessary to send the children to non-public schools. She learned of a boarding school in Pader District that was an answer to prayer – the Archbishop Flynn Secondary School (AFSS) – a safe place for girls as well as boys to live well and learn to the highest level possible.  Beatrice was enrolled in the school, where she continued her history of academic excellence, against all odds. She assisted with the fees by helping her aunt sell crops they worked tirelessly to produce. Sadly, it soon became impossible to make the extra money, and all the children in her family were forced to stay home.

But the tide had turned for Beatrice. In the short year and a half at AFSS, she had been an exemplary student.  When the school learned she could no longer afford to attend, they awarded her a scholarship to finish her studies.  Today, Beatrice has achieved the academic success necessary to pursue higher education and aspires to become a medical doctor because, in her words,

“…. I have a special liking and affinity to the sick, the elderly, and even those who suffer morally and psychologically, I have been trying to offer them support and encouragement. It is also in my mind that when I settled as a professional who is employed I also extend financial assistance to others preferably through Archbishop Flynn SS. I will make humble contributions to the scholarship account and I will encourage others to do the same so that as many children as possible can benefit from the same funds which I have benefited. I know everything is possible with the help and support of God.  The greatest thing I can do right now is praying for the success of Archbishop Flynn SS. It is ‘God’s Project’ as the director Msgr. Matthew Odong has often told us.  It is my humble prayer to God that His divine project in and through Archbishop Flynn SS may succeed.”

The love that touched Beatrice and others like her began as the dream of a young priest from Gulu District in Northern Uganda. During his doctoral studies in Kenya, Fr. Matthew Odong was asked to travel to the United States as a circuit missionary. His charismatic personality soon won the hearts of many American friends and his dream to provide good education for the nearly lost generation of children in Northern Uganda began to materialize. Now, twenty plus years later, Msgr. Matthew is rector of Sacred Heart Seminary in Gulu, and is the founder of Archbishop Flynn Secondary School in Pader District. He has relentlessly raised funds to support both efforts by connecting “strangers” to the children he so dearly loves.  Love is the answer.  Love changes the fabric woven by tragedy.