Project Have Hope member Akumu Hellen is an Acholi, originally from Lokung in the Kitgum District of war-torn Northern Uganda. There has been ongoing violence in the North for 25 years, with insurgents killing and torturing innocent civilians. Many years ago in the North, Hellen’s village was attacked. She and the children hid nearby while her husband stayed behind in the house. When they returned they found him in pieces; he had been hacked to death. On another occasion, the insurgents set fire to the neighbor’s house with the family still inside. They were all burned to death. These traumatic experiences forced Hellen to flee south with the children. They settled in the Acholi Quarter over 20 years ago. The Acholi Quarter is a squatter’s settlement outside of Kampala, Uganda, home to many Acholi families that have been displaced from Northern Uganda.
Hellen supports eight children. Acan Florence, Okeny Justine, Akong Jane, and Abalo Josephine are her own. Otim Patrick, Okot Richard, Aber Daniela, and Aneno Priscilia are her grandchildren; all of their parents have died. Project Have Hope sponsors Okot Richard in school and has enrolled Akong Jane in a computer training course. To earn an income, Hellen raises poultry to sell and rolls paper beads for Project Have Hope. She has gained some skills by completing the Adult Literacy Program.
Thanks to Project Have Hope, she also grows mushrooms and has a balcony garden. Despite her efforts, Hellen struggles to pay rent, feed the children more than once a day, provide enough clothes and shoes for them, and pay the school fees. In the future, Hellen would like to open a charcoal business, since charcoal is used every day in the Acholi Quarter. She believes that this business venture would help her earn enough money to sustain the family. Finally, Hellen hopes someday to save enough money to return home to the North. She owns land there and could build a house for her family. Two of her children and two of her sisters live in the North, so she could be closer to them. Resettlement would give the family a renewed sense of hope.