Auto-repair Shop Gives Light to Hopes of Uganda’s Ex-Child Soldiers

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An auto-repair shop is giving light to hopes of Uganda’s ex-child soldiers in a bid to help them overcome poverty and stigma of their past to live a normal productive life. Here, they are assured that there’s hope for the future which starts today.

Looking out on the lush countryside near his home village of Awach, in Northern Uganda, Louis Lakor, an ex-child soldier and now a trainer at the Auto-repair shop tells of how his dream of becoming a teacher was shattered at the age of seven when he was abducted in a night raid by armed LRA rebel group (Lord’s resistance army) that terrorized the region for nearly two decades before being driven out of the country by a military offensive in 2005.

“Shoot everything you see otherwise, you’ll be killed,” was the instruction he received as a clutched gun was handed to him by his abductors. The notorious LRA under the leadership of Joseph Kony is responsible for numerous crimes against humanity and is wanted by the International Criminal Court https://www.icc-cpi.int/. Such crimes include; abduction of children for use as fighters and sex slaves, the massacre of over 100,000 people and displacement of over 2 million people for over 2 decades.

This auto-repair shop is helping ex-child soldiers put the horrors of the bush behind them by empowering them with skills including vehicle repairs, mechanics, hairdressing, tailoring, and carpentry. Pacing around his noisy workshop where youth welded, sewed and hammered, Lakor said, “When I train youths here, I tell them my story. I tell where I came from – that I’m like them, that I’m still looking for a way to survive!” They are like a family rebuilding.

Lakor escaped from the LRA, aged 11 and returned to his village, After a trail of struggling to fit in and be accepted in society, luck came his way when he was introduced to Peter Owiny Mwa, owner of local business Baka General Motors, who decided to give him a chance, at first employed him as a cleaner, and later trained him as a mechanic. In 2013, he proposed a grand strategy to Mwa to let him train and employ ex-LRA youths (ex-child soldiers) and sell what they make to create jobs and keep the enterprise running.

Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Lakor and Mwa at Baka Auto-repair shop

Today, the workshop assists about 60 boys and girls each year, with little external funding. Lakor’s work is producing results! Trainees have gone on to set up workshops in their villages, enabling them to start new lives, despite the shadows of the past. It is a joy to see such determination and resilience in these youth. Reach out to someone in need. Don’t give up hope because your tomorrow is greater than today! #Rewordit.

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