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More than just paper…

Posted on May 28th, 2015.


Though these may look just like beads to the naked eye, they are much more than just that. These beads were not created on an assembly line, nor were they created by a machine making thousands of the same piece repetitively to be attached  in identical order to produce one million necklaces to be sold to department stores all over the world. Each bead is hand-crafted, one by one, to create a beautiful strand of jewelry. No bead is the same, no necklace or bracelet is the same. Each one was touched by a hand, a hand that struggled through war and conflict and a hand that meticulously rolled each individual piece, piecing together something to bring his or her family closer to a better quality of life.

Bosco Oryem lived in the Acholi region of northern Uganda during the reign of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA is an extremist religious group in Uganda and South Sudan that has been accused of pervasive human rights violations, such as murder, abduction, child-slavery and much more. In 2006, UNICEF estimated that the LRA had kidnapped near 25,000 children in its conflict with the Ugandan government. Bosco was one of these young people. He fought alongside other child soldiers for years, until in 1996, he was shot several times in the thigh in a fight. He was left for dead by his kidnappers. He was eventually found and brought to a hospital, where his leg was amputated.

Bosco’s story reflects that of many child soldiers and Ugandans who lived through the conflict, and who continue to rebuild their lives, homes and families. Bosco was introduced to the Alliance for African Assistance through the field office in Gulu, Uganda. His talent for making paper beads is only outshone by his endurance and drive to create a better life for his children and fellow countrymen, some of whom have joined in his bead-making group.