An encounter with Terror
Have you ever felt so powerless and everything around seems bigger than you? Imagine a world where a child`s rights to simple basic human needs is still a dream, a world where little children screams; "I hate this life!" This is the untold stories of over 2 Million orphaned children in Uganda.
12 Years ago, Mercy Akongo embarked on a journey when she decided to go and work with Internally Displaced Persons’ camps (IDP) in Northern Uganda. Though born in Kitgum, one of the districts of Northern Uganda that was ravaged by the Lord Resistance Army rebels for over two decades, she grew up in the Karamoja region, her hometown in the North-eastern part of Uganda.
With a dream to make a difference, Mercy joined Cooperazione Internationale (COOPI); an international humanitarian organization in the fight against Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Northern Uganda. This is a road that would throw her in the face of terror as she got more involved and exposed to the devastating abuses, pain, desperation and the untold stories of thousands of children stranded in IDPs facing untold sufferings, with unknown future.
Before moving to Oyam in Northern Uganda, Mercy believed she understood the realities of people living in IDP camps. It was until she started fieldwork and engaged directly with victims of war on a daily basis; that she understood the magnitude of damages left by this civil war. During her work with victims in IDP camps and villages; she was particularly captivated by the vulnerable children who she encountered on every day.
"Every day was difficult, but it hit home most for me one day when I heard a child scream out in pain, “I hate this life!!” This took me back to the day I arrived from school and was told that my mother had died. I remember the blank look, and then that deep pain as I screamed out, God; I hate this life!! This cry was a familiar cry and it became frequent as I continue to interact with children each day. I started taking children on and supported them directly secretly, as it was against my organization's policy to receive or give personal gifts to clients. The desperation and the agony that came with the daily struggles for children while navigating the harsh reality of life in camps without parents to protect them broke me down, I had to do something"
~ Mercy Akongo ~
With her monthly salary, Mercy was directly supporting 18 vulnerable orphaned children living in households headed by a child by providing them with the basic human needs like food, education and access to medical services. Through her work, she initiated and developed a close working relationship with The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), The United Nations Population Fund; formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). She made connections with Medical centres and CARITAS after encountering a group of children being abused by their own father; a violent ex-soldier who terrified everybody including police officers who could not dare to arrest him.
“I had a love-hate relationship with the Police in the region due to the lack of cooperation and dedication to assist victims of SGBV to access justice or medical services. I often camped at the police station until SGBV victims has got the support they needed from the police. Not forgetting my famous nickname by the Police, `that tiny difficult lady` because I would never leave until they take action and do their job”
Mercy is currently working with the Department of Premier and Cabinet (Victoria) and she also volunteer her free time to her charity, This Life Foundation in support of vulnerable children in Uganda. She has also started a volunteer mentoring program that comprises of her professional friends to provide support and guidance to vulnerable young people who are at risk of getting in contact with the justice system in Victoria.
Mercy was a member of the Oxfam International Youth Partnership for over 10 years where she mentored young people from around the world. As a member of the African Youth Parliament, she believes that young people carry the future and should be supported to be great leaders today and tomorrow.
Mercy moved to Victoria from New South Wales two years ago motivated by the over-representation of young people from African background in the justice system, she came with the thirst to make a difference. On arrival, she met and connected with many African men and women in prisons around Victoria where she got them to join the Jesuit Social Services mentoring program, African Visitation and Mentoring Program (AVAMP) and introduced them to their mentors.
Please join us at This Life Foundation Gala Dinner 2019 and get the opportunity to listen to Mercy share some of the untold stories from Northern Uganda. The dinner is on the 26th October 2019 at the Marvel Stadium in support of vulnerable children in Uganda and Australia, please get your ticket here
As we chat, Mercy remembers a statement said to her by His Royal Highness Prince Charles while she was attending Business In The Community (BITC) Gala Dinner (in London) hosted by His Royal Highness Prince Charles; where she spoke as one of the Guest Speakers.
"Your name Mercy is a beautiful name for a beautiful person. I like your name and you are living by it. Your community and country are so lucky to have you because you are the ambassador of truth and freedom from oppression, corruption, poverty and injustice. Never stop speaking up and fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves"
~ His Royal Highness; Prince Charles ~