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Friday, 20 July 2012

Hope you are not feasting on their minerals as they sleep : US army officers build grass-thatched housing units for Karamoja orphanage


FIRST READ:

The scramble for Minerals in Uganda: Karamoja leaders accuse First Family of land-grabbing



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US army officers build housing units for Karamoja orphanage


Publish Date: Jul 20, 2012

By Henry Mukasa
A joint team of US army teamed up with residents to construct 16 grass-thatched houses for the Moroto childcare and orphanage project in Nakapelimen village.

According to statement issued by the US embassy in Kampala, the US army personnel of the navy and marines are from the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion-Charlie Company that has operated in Karamoja for the past four years.

The battalion conducts civic action programmes and provides veterinary training to a population whose livelihood is dependent on livestock and pastoralism.

On the first day of the 10-day project, the team collected straw, wood, sisal, and soil for the construction project.

The team was divided into several groups and assigned responsibilities based on each team member’s skill set and preference.

This will go on for the next nine days.

According to Staff Sergeant Sonya Barker, the community relations project at the orphanage was an opportunity for her team to foster community and partner nation relationships.

“All locals, especially the orphans and widows, were very grateful for the improved living conditions,” Barker said.

Pastor Emmanuel Koel, the orphanage director, hailed the joint US team.

“We are very grateful for this project because it’s going to provide the orphans with shelter from the upcoming rainy season by placing a roof over their heads,” Koel said.

The orphanage houses more than 50 children between one and 12 years old.

Most of the children are victims of inter-clan conflict, cattle rustling, HIV/AIDS, malaria or malnutrition. The orphanage provides accommodation, food, medical aid, and free education for the children.

US Navy Lieutenant Commander, Chris Sanford and the country coordination element officer from the US embassy described the community relations project as a success. “This is an outstanding opportunity to show the people of Karamoja that the people of the United States are there to help, particularly those most in need,” Sanford explained.

“It was a heartfelt event where I felt a responsibility to offer my time and my own hands, working alongside elders and some extremely positive children,” he added.

The US team also distributed scholastic materials and toys to the orphans.

The items were donated by Loving Hugs, Inc., a Colorado-based non-profit charitable organization that collects and donates toys to underprivileged children around the world.

“I would like to do this again,” Master Gunnery Sergeant Joel Rogers of the US Marine Corps remarked.

“It was fulfilling to know our efforts will have a meaningful impact on the children’s lives for quite some time.

It gives them a chance to see the human side of men and women in the military. As a parent, I am happy to bring a moment of joy to lives that have seen so much pain,” Rogers out.