I can still remember the look on my friends and family’s face when I first told them I wanted to travel thousands of miles to work with kids awaiting trial for various crimes. I can also remember the first question I’d get: “Why?”. I wasn’t always sure how to answer that question when I got it (which was at least 5 times on Thanksgiving alone), but after 7 days at the Gulu Remand home I think I finally have a response. These boys aren’t social outcasts or criminals; most of them aren’t even guilty of their crime and are just simply awaiting their chance to prove that. They are kind, caring, and hardworking young men with aspirations and goals just like the rest of Uganda’s youth.
When you first come through the gate of the Remand home you’re likely to see boys in groups working together on various tasks, from chopping cabbage for lunch to sweeping the grounds. If they aren’t working then they’re probably playing a game of scrabble together or the drums. One thing you never see is one boy by himself, or secluded. They’re a brotherhood in that way; a very dynamic one. The remand home has a hierarchy of its own within it. There’s a president, which at this point is Dennis, and other positions below him. It’s almost as if there’s an invisible hand guiding them through the day because at no point have I seen any figure of authority give instructions. They know when it’s lunchtime and the posho needs to be made, or when the millet needs to be picked in the fields. It’s clear that these boys take pride in the remand home, and all the work that goes into its upkeep. One of the most fascinating parts of the remand home, in my opinion, is the classroom. The walls are lined with drawings from the kids. No one picture is the same; some contain scripture while others are simply super-hero like figures. This isn’t the only part of the remand home that shows the kid’s artistic side. The room they sleep in is lined with cots and has one big mural on the back wall. The mural is a hand with Africa etched on it. Surrounding the hand is a quote from scripture “I have engraved you on the palm of my hand.”
I think the decision to include this specific passage speaks greatly about the overall attitude of the remand home. Their trust not only in God, but in each other is apparent and definitely admirable.
Phoebe Van Hoof