CFTS Efforts to Help the Children of Lira, Uganda

The CFTS Charity Appeal update.


Lira a town with a population in excess of 82.000 lies in the northern districts of Uganda 215 miles north of the capital Kampala. In this town alone, over 30,000 children have been abducted in the past 18 years which when considering the number in relation to its size one can see just how devastating the effect it has had upon the population. Most every family in the area has been affected. Many families have lost a child through abduction, or their village was attacked and destroyed, families burned out with many killed, and harvests destroyed by an army of abducted children known as The Lord’s Resistance Army.


The countryside is virtually empty and people have moved into safe villages that are supposed to be protected by the government, but that has often been more in word than in deeds. At night the children of the north flee into towns to sleep, fearing that they might too be abducted. They find safety in numbers in towns such as Lira where even the local bishops and ministers have joined them as they seek safety from the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony, a former altar boy, self-styled mystic, demonically inspired medium, ruthless leader, and merciless person who has brought Northern Uganda to a virtual standstill. People are frozen in fear, commerce has become non-existent, fields go fallow, villages have been decimated, and children have grown up without a future or hope.


War in itself is bad, but this conflict has been going on for 18 years with no resolve in sight. This war is hellish in that the Joseph Kony’s army recruits its soldiers from the villages and schools of northern Uganda through abductions. Thousands of children have been robbed of childhood and, in many cases, of life itself. Boys and girls are turned into ruthless killers who no longer feel, but are numbed within, and their souls have become seared by the atrocities they have seen and in which they have forced to participate. Children as young as 10 years old are taught to kill, often beginning with their own families. Others are killed and one child is let to live and then is commanded to kill in order to stay alive themselves. This has left many orphaned, confused and lonely children with nowhere to live and no one to care for them.


To further compound the problems and difficulties many of the population are HIV positive and as in many African countries, many die from aids. This increases the numbers of orphaned children living on the streets still further. This is the backdrop to a hastily written message on a Christmas card that Sensei Andy Kidby (6th Dan Central Federation of Traditional Shotokan chief instructor) received last year from Mrs. Sandra Murphy. It simply said “I am trying to help street kids in Africa. If you feel you can help me please get in touch.” How can you help a country ravaged by war, disease, ignorance, starvation and poverty? This was the question Mrs. Murphy posed herself. Maybe just one step at a time she thought and that became the name of her charity she is now director of. After a phone conversation between her and Andy Kidby it was decided that CFTS would get behind her appeal. Rather than help raise funds for international charities with household names it is nicer to help where you can see the results of your fundraising.


In a different slant to normal club competition, Sensei Kidby decided to host an inter club football tournament as a fundraiser. It was a target of his to achieve sufficient money by organising the tournament to buy a motorbike to help in the charity’s work. Too often we can donate to a charity without actually seeing what your hard earned money has done. With this more specific fund raising, gratifying results are transparent.


The purpose of a motor bike is, not only to assist with mundane everyday transport needs, but it also serves a much better need too. Some children living on the streets have been separated from their parents by the effects of war. Some of them may have parents living in displacement camps and some of them are orphans but may have relatives alive in villages far away. An all-terrain motor bike is a fast, easy and economical method of getting about following up on leads which may reunite a street child with a loved one. It can also help transport youths in the care of the charity to work placements where they are on apprentice schemes to enable them to obtain work and become self sufficient.


The total raised at the football tournament was more than sufficient money for the motorbike with enough left over for a twelve month maintenance contract plus tax and insurance. There was even enough for a push bike too which will help with the most local of journeys around Lira. Already the motorbike is being put into good use. Recently Sandra Murphy spent six hours on the back of the motor bike, tracking down relatives and loved ones of the street children in the bush. By the end of the day Sandra said “I could see my legs with my eyes but I honestly couldn’t feel them. I did the next day though because they ached for all of it. It proved a very worthwhile journey though because we managed to reunite a child with his parents who thought he was dead”.


Another of the reasons of charity fundraising, apart from helping a very worthwhile cause, is to demonstrate to younger karate students that the true meaning of martial arts is not just what it does for your body that is important. Karate is more about what it does for your head and your heart that truly matters and what better way than to help those less fortunate than ourselves. As Shotokan traditionalists, CFTS firmly believe it is not just karate-jitsu that is important. Maybe even more important is karate-do and how in turn the traditional moralistic values affect the way you lead your life.


With regard to the football itself we can report the standard was varying to say the least but great fun was had by all. The winners after a tight final of the ladies and boys tournament were Kempston, with Ampthill coming runners up. The winners of the men's tournament were again Kempston; Kempston beat Wolverton by a solitary goal but as Sensei Kidby said on the day - the true winners on this occasion had to be the street children of Lira.


Professional photographs of the day were taken by Steve Kavanagh, a student of CFTS who sold them at £2 each raising still more funds for the charity. This money was to be used to send out shoe boxes filled with Christmas gifts for some of the street children. It was hoped that if every student brought an item in to their club we could send over thirty gift boxes out in time for Christmas. That target was soon surpassed with the final total being almost ninety boxes. Each box was crammed with small toys, toiletries, pens, pencils, crayons, books and sweets plus a small item of clothing. It is hard to believe but even though most of the population of Lira are Christians, Christmas day just comes and goes like another day, and most have never received a Christmas gift.


Further boxes of various aid items such as clothing and medical items as well as toiletries were also dispatched along with the gift boxes. Let’s hope the consignment arrived in good time safely making a small difference to some young unhappy children, and maybe putting a smile on their face even, if only for Christmas day.

Should anyone wish to help “One Step at a Time” in any way you may contact Andy Kidby in the first instance on akidby@hotmail.com and he’d be only too pleased to share contact information with you.