Good Cause of the Month: ChildVoice
Creating a therapeutic community for war-affected girls and their children in northern Uganda and beyond.
Starting last year, we’ve been alerting you to events and causes worthy of your time and philanthropic treasure in our Good Cause of the Month series. Keep an eye out for a Good Cause every month here at NHMagazine.com, from charitable events to volunteer opportunities to nonprofits you should get to know — and, by the end of the year, your do-gooder cred will be off the charts.
For this month's Good Cause, we'd like to introduce you to ChildVoice. The international nonprofit is dedicated to improving the lives of adolescent girls affected by war in Uganda and surrounding countries. Kids of the war-torn region have been severely impacted by years of gruesome conflict. Headquartered in Newmarket, the organization was started in 2006 and has since helped hundreds upon hundreds of girls and their families - going above and beyond just providing relief. Read on to learn about the enormous impact this nonprofit is making and how you can be a part of the cause.
What They Do
When ChildVoice founder and New Hampshire resident Conrad Mandsager’s travels lead him to Uganda in 2006, he witnessed firsthand the complete lack of protection and care accessible to young girls living in Internationally Displaced People (IDP) camps. Many of the girls, now outcasts, had been sex slaves, war orphans or were forced to become soldiers by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Mandsager witnessed the ongoing threat of child abduction in small villages, which was so imminent that children would walk great lengths at night to sleep on the ground of the closest city, because it was safer than sleeping at home. The horrific aftermath of over 20 years of war and terror in northern Uganda has had a long and lasting grip on the children of central Africa. In response to the inadequate conditions that these young girls were facing (and that many continue to face), ChildVoice opened its first program in 2007: The Lukome Center.
The Lukome Center in Gulu, Uganda, hosts services designed specifically to help young girls and their children recover from the atrocities they’ve endured. They address psychosocial needs, provide trauma healing, educational and vocational needs and more. Due to the fact that much of the violence toward young girls is sexual, those who are admitted into the 5-year program at the Lukome Center are some of the most highly traumatized cases. So far, 175 victims and 234 of their children have been served by the center. It is also well on its way to becoming a completely sustainable operation thanks to the center’s farming activities.
Director of Programs Kristin Barlow stresses that what sets ChildVoice apart from other agencies is that they are not a relief project. “We invest in these girls for the long haul. Equipping them to be strong, empowered young women - no longer vulnerable to manipulation and abuse,” she says. “There is a deep and intentional investment into each and every girl.”
ChildVoice aims to equip girls with the skills to independently provide for themselves and their children. Barlow serves as a liaison between the ChildVoice headquarters here in New Hampshire and the site in Uganda, as well as in Nigeria where it is a registered NGO. ChildVoice is currently in the process of setting up a base of operations in Yola and Maiduguri to help the victims of Boko Haram, a terrorist group known for their use of child suicide bombers and the abduction of thousands of children, including the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted in April 2014 simply because they were recieving an education.
As of 2017, the organization has expanded to help more than 1 million people displaced to Ugandan IDP camps due to the refugee crisis in Southern Sudan. ChildVoice has set up 50 Girl Empowerment Communities in the Imvepi Settlement IDP camp, which are dedicated to meeting the needs for at-risk adolescents and their children. Today, a total of 850 girls are enrolled throughout the settlement. ChildVoice has created an enrichment and recovery program thay goes beyond providing the basic necessities, such as food, water and clothing. The organization is looking forward to expanding its efforts in terms of quantity of sites, but are also adamant on keeping their centers small so as to ensure the quality of care and sense of community they so highly value.
How You Can Help
Can you cut fabric or sew a simple pattern? If so, then you are qualified to join the ChildVoice Pad Project that sends reusable menstrual pad kits to over 850 girls in northern Uganda camps. No girl should stay home from getting an education because of her anatomy, and no girl should have to put her life on hold. For more information, visit childvoice.org/pad.
You can also join ChildVoice’s monthly giving program and donate your choice of $10 per month or $100 per month to help fund counseling, training and education for the girls of ChildVoice. For more information, visit childvoice.org/monthlygiving.
Are you interested in a more hands on experience? You can actually travel to Uganda and visit the Lukome Center for yourself, helping the girls with their chores, playing games and spending time with them. For more information, visit childvoice.org/experience-uganda.