There are few more dramatic ways of illustrating the sad history of the Great Lakes area of Africa than looking at the density of Orphan Villages built in the area by SOS Children.
The first two villages in Burundi and Rwanda were built in 1977 & 1978 complete with a medical centres and primary schools. Poverty drove needs for medical care, education and care for children whose parents were not there for them.
But from then on the story was wars. First in Uganda in 1986. The charity began in Uganda with a Children's Village in 1989 at Kakiri, a small market town about 15 miles north west of the capital Kampala. This part of Uganda suffered most from the war , and there were many children with no one. The same year in what was then East Zaire SOS Children founded Bukavu Children's Village on Lake Kivu. Bukavu Children's village houses 200 children and runs a primary school and medical centre which treats over 9000 patients a year.
The second Rwanda Children's Village in 1992 was quickly followed by an emergency village in 1994 to house children orphaned by the genocide and a food station for refugee mothers and children. Family tracing went on for years and the remaining couple of hundred children with no traceable surviving relatives formed a new permanent village in 1997.
The second Village in DR Congo (formerly Zaire) started in 1998 from an emergency relief programme was set up in Uvira to support children who had been orphaned or abandoned in what is sometimes called the first Congolese war. Although many were reunited with their own families more than 150 children whose parents had been killed in the fighting remained and a permanent home for them was built with a primary school and a medical centre for the local community.
And again in Burundi: the civil war in 1993 left children alone and SOS Children launched an emergency aid programme in Muyinga Province, as a temporary home for children orphaned in the conflict. Family tracing placed many and this emergency project turned into a permanent home for around 150 children left alone. SOS Children Muyinga is just outside the town on the top of a hill called Mukoni.
Since then the pattern has repeated and repeated: emergency villages for children orphaned and abandoned, and centres for refugees, years of tracing families and several hundred left needing love and care until independence. The most recent was in Gulu. Although the villages themselves are oases of happiness, the sheer number tells a tale of miserable history and conflict. And yet the conflicts in the area continue and sadly looking at the mounting tension in DR Congo it is hard not to feel "again".