For much of her childhood, Grace suffered from intense trauma. When she was just 10 years old, she was abducted by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and held prisoner in the bush for two months. During this time, she was beaten and forced to watch other abductees being killed. She said the kidnapped children had to walk long distances carrying heavy things, with no food or water. Grace was forced to carry a heavy suitcase on her head and still suffers from sharp pains in her neck even now, 10 years later.
While in the bush, an older woman tried to take care of her, sometimes carrying her if she felt weak. Grace doesn’t know where the woman is now, but says she feels much love for her.
Unfortunately, Grace continued to experience terrible hardship after she returned home. When she was only 16, her father died of AIDS. Shortly after that, her mother disappeared — rumours suggested that she committed suicide because she, too, had AIDS. At the young age of 16, Grade quit school and became the sole caregiver and provider for her four younger siblings.
She tried to support her family through agriculture, the main livelihood for people in Patongo. She began tilling the fields and planting crops, but she was only able to grow a few things — nowhere near enough to feed herself and her siblings.
But things have begun to change for Grace. She is now enrolled in Network for Africa’s Lioness Programme and is back in secondary school. She is studying English, History, Physics and many other subjects, and likes almost all of them. She is also on the school netball team and part of the debating club.
Life is, of course, far from stress-free for Grace but she now has hope for the future and feels that she is no longer alone. Her goal is to go to university and then become a lecturer in the arts. Eventually, she says she wants to come back to Patongo and help youths prepare for their own futures.