'I started living the day I arrived at Kira'

Alex’s life before Kira was filled with emptiness and abuse. Born at a time when his village was under serious attacks from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), he missed out on a normal childhood as his family spent most of their time hiding in the bush and living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, suffering from a shortage of food. Having survived the war, Alex’s parents were about to start their lives over again when they were killed in a terrible car accident, leaving him in the care of an abusive uncle.

Slavery and abuse

Alex doesn’t remember ever remember being happy before Kira. He became a slave for his uncle, spending all his time either in the garden growing food for the family, or cutting down trees to burn charcoal so pay for his cousins’ school fees. Seeing other children playing and attending school made him cry and wish his parents were still alive. He tried to take himself to school, but his uncle made him work even more, so he would arrive at school late and tired and would fall asleep in class. As he grew up he worried about his future, he had no education and wasn’t sure he would ever get his share of the family land from his uncle.  When he received the news that he was accepted to join Kira Farm, his relief was immense.

Laughing out loud

Alex says, ‘I started living the day I got to Kira Farm. To me everything seemed so unreal - a nice place with a bed, a lot of food and smiling strangers; I thought it was a dream and I never wanted to end.’ He says he laughed out loud for the first time on Kira. His life was at peace, he made friends and started to get a feel for what he wanted from life and who he wanted to be. The mentoring helped him to heal his past troubles and by the end of the course he was no longer feeling empty and lonely; he had the knowledge of God’s love and that Amigos that would always be there for him.

Forgiveness and confidence

Alex knew things would not be easy when he first returned home. On the journey back, he thought a lot about the restorative approaches he had been learning at Kira and how they could help mend his relationship with his uncle. His self-esteem having improved significantly at Kira, he had the courage to request a talk with his uncle and thanked him for taking care of him in the past years. He told him what he had learned at Kira and then requested some land so that he could start his own life. The uncle was surprised and asked for a month to think about it. Alex remained calm, explaining, ‘I’d taught myself to forgive and love my uncle and his family.’

Magic Farming

Managing his time, Alex got up and did family work before everyone else woke and then looked for building work around the village. In the second week of being home he got his first job and was paid £15. He invested the money in seeds and farming equipment, not wanting to use any of his uncle’s things so he could prove his independence. As he measured his garden using his new techniques in conservation farming, the family watched him. ‘They were mocking me and thought it was a joke,’ Alex remembers. ‘But after my first harvest it was my uncle’s family who were spreading the news around the village about what they called my ‘magic farming’.’

Passing on skills

‘I got about £88 from the sale of maize from my garden, and since then my life has not been the same,’ says Alex. ‘At last my uncle gave me a piece of land and I have started putting materials on it to build my own house.’ Alex has joined Samuel, another Kira trainee, who opened up a church in the village. Together they are training others in conservation farming techniques. Alex has also been offered a job in an institute near Gulu town - working part time to train others - and has been promised a monthly salary of £75.

Optimistic for the future

Alex actively helps in the local church, encouraging other youths to work hard and advising those who come for interviews on what to expect from Kira Farm and Amigos. ‘I am so grateful that I now own my life. Apart from the hard work I am doing I am also getting some time to socialise with other young people in the village and church.’ Alex has donated to the church two benches he made in his carpentry workshop and since March he has saved £5 a week through different building jobs around the village, a significant sum for this young man who never had a penny to his name.

Alex’s vision for the future is optimistic. ‘I believe by this time next year I will have built my own home and set up a carpentry workshop,’ he smiles.

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