For more than 21 years, war was a large part of life in Northern Uganda and children were forced to be on the front lines. But one former child soldier says the peak of the war is over and his people just want peace. Through an organization called Friends of Orphans, Clarkson University is getting involved. Students and faculty members are working to bring a radio station to Northern Uganda and our Cara Thomas says students are diving in head first.
POTSDAM, N.Y. -- Anywar Ricky Richard grew up in a small town called Pader in Northern Uganda. He grew up during a very violent time when war was raging between the Ugandan government and rebel forces called the Lord's Resistance Army.
"At the age of 14 years, I fell victim to abduction," said Richard.
He watched his family be brutally murdered and was forced to kill others. It was after he escaped and received his education that he felt called to help those who lived through similar circumstances.
Richard said, "I felt that these children needed someone to talk to. And with my experience I knew that they are really, really deeply hurt and they need someone at that point."
It was then in 1999 that he founded an organization called 'Friends of Orphans,' where other abducted children could receive rehabilitation, psychological help and learn career building skills. In May, a group of students and faculty from Clarkson University visited Friends of Orphans and learned about Richard's plan to start a radio station.
Kristen Cardella, a Clarkson University student, said, "Radio is something we take for granted here. You can just turn on your car and listen to it but for them, it's something of a brand new technology for them."
Richard said, "I would love to use this radio to amplify the voices of the disadvantaged people of Northern Uganda."
The students jumped right on board. They've already begun creating a feasibility study to help raise funds, recognize the technical needs and eventually create the radio's own website.
Clarkson professor Augustine Lado said, "Clarkson is working very hard to try to not only prepare the students for the job market, but really trying to build global citizens, global leaders."
Richard says many people in Uganda cannot read or write, so a radio station is their best option for communication. Clarkson faculty members say students will be involved throughout the entire project, from the planning stages to the technical and engineering aspects.
Richard says they will need more than $300,000 to get the radio station started. But, in the end, the radio station will be able to reach about 15 districts in Northern Africa and more than four million people.