In December 2014, Daniel Halasz bought a one-way ticket to East Africa with the romantic idea to discover the true unknown frontiers, uncharted lands, rural black holes and urban black spots in Uganda like an old time explorer. He spent nine months in the region, one month at the GYDA school in Gulu.
Northern Uganda has suffered more than 20 years of violent insurgency led by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). During this time, over one million people moved from their rural villages to refugee camps to live closer together for increased protection. Since 2006, peace talks between the government and the LRA have started but the future remains uncertain as Joseph Kony, the LRA’s leader, refuses to sign any peace resolutions until criminal charges are dropped.
Under these conditions, parents found it difficult to provide an education for their children. Owing to the temporary nature of the displacement camps, primary and secondary schools simply did not exist, and with the ongoing war, 70% of these children never received any formal education. Furthermore, Uganda has the world’s youngest population: 80% of the population is under 30 years old, and only 1% in Northern Uganda make it to university.
Gulu’s community members soon recognised the need to train their children and created a nationally-accredited vocational program, the Gulu Youth Development Association (GYDA). Filling the skills gap for many of these young adults who areanxious to work and support their families, the organisation trains its students to work with metal, repair motor vehicles, design clothing and construct buildings.
Under the leadership of Robert Kilama, a civil engineer and certified mechanic, the organisation has trained over 8,000 youths from the Northern Uganda region, including refugees from Southern Sudan, who are now starting their own businessesand generating income for their families, in the hope of restoring peace in the region. They also try to lessen the physical causalities caused by the war by manufacturing limbs, crutches and wheelchairs.