Monday, January 25, 2010

" the village"

On Sunday, Akello Pamella invited us to pay a visit to her family's home "in the village." Pamella was born in Awac (pronounced ah-watch), but when she was just two years old, her family fled to join relatives in Gulu town. Awac - just 17 km from Gulu center - was a serious fighting ground for the conflict in Northern Uganda. Pamella's father shared stories with us about the brothers and sons of brothers who were lost to the fighting, and how the rebels had killed or stole their livestock, and thus, their livelihood.

The family scraped by in Gulu from 1988 to 2009. After twenty-one years away, they returned to their land in Awac last year. With nothing left of the home they had fled so long ago, they began to build anew.

Pamella herself lives in Gulu town with her children, Innocent and Maria, and she care for her nephew, Felix, whose mother passed away in 2009. Since her family fled in 1988, she'd only visited Awac once - for her sister-in-law's burial last year.

It was quite a juxtaposition to see the difference between Pamella's children and those in the village. Felix and Innocent (pictured above with Pamella's brothers) wore new matching outfits with trainers. Maria's hair was elaborately braided. In contrast, Pamella's nieces and nephews were barefoot, many with the swollen belly indicative of malnutrition.

We joined the family for lunch, eating traditional foods - millet bread, sweet potatoes and rice, with sesame paste (odii), greens mixed with sesame paste (malakwang) and a bowl of beef stew, washed down with boiled milk and sugar. As guests, we were instructed to eat with the men - Pamella's father and brothers, while the women waited in the kitchen hut. After the men had their fill, mats were laid out on the earth under the very traditional Acholi family - while her father speaks impeccable English, he has two wives, and his sons have followed in the tradition of polygamy.

For me, it was a glimpse at the life left behind when our tailors come to work at One Mango Tree. Pamella has become a beacon of pride for her family (pictured above right), but with her accomplishment also comes responsibility. All of these family members in the village will now rely on her for support. That didn't seem to bother her one bit. As we drove back to Gulu and dropped her off at home, the kids were nodding off in the back seat and Pamella wore a big grin.

"I am very happy," she said.

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