Hope North Heroes

Read how our students used their passion to overcome pain and build a better Uganda.



Uses the earth to better the country



Writes words to change the world



Embraces rhythm to do what’s right



Sings songs of the past to save the future



Starts a movement through movement


A girl who plants hope and harvests peace.
A Future Forester

Stories of hope often use the analogy of a plant. It begins as a small seed and, given the right support and care, it grows to something much larger and more powerful. But in some cases, it isn’t just a metaphor.

© Tadej Znidarcic

Florence has found inspiration and ambition in the fields surrounding her. She uses the perseverance of nature to fuel her own growth. She sees agriculture not just as a way to nourish the people around her, but as the world’s way of flourishing, of using the elements it is provided to make something beautiful, something great. Unfortunately many stories of hope begin in a place of darkness, and Florence’s story is no exception.

Captured. Her father killed. Then forced at machete point to carry heavy loads alongside her mother. This is the situation Florence found herself in when her family was taken by the Lord's Resistance Army in 2001.

For nine months she and her mother were treated as pack mules, hauling heavy equipment and food, while at the same time given very little to eat. To add to the pain, Florence's cousin was eventually killed as well. She knew she wouldn't last much longer, so something had to be done.

To provide food for your family is to give them life and hope
Acrylic on paper

One day an opportunity presented itself. While Florence and five other children were fetching water, the LRA guards were distracted, allowing a brief moment to escape. The children crawled on their bellies through the thick brush surrounding them, eventually hiding under a large, bushy tree. They stayed put, keeping still and quiet through the night.

Come morning, the children escaped to Koro where they were taken to a hospital to have their injuries treated. Once healed, they moved on to GUSCO, the child soldier rehabilitation center in Gulu.

Unfortunately, Florence's troubles didn't end there. As with many ex child soldiers, relationships with her peers and even her family were strained. Though her aunt took her in for eight years, Florence had trouble making strong connections. Though her mother escaped and rejoined Florence after 9 years in LRA captivity, she was unable to work or pay for school. That's when Florence found Hope North.

Florence, now in her Senior Two year, is studying and learning to give back to and help the country she cares deeply about. While she expresses herself through song, dance, and athletics, her true passion lies in agriculture and the outdoors.

It's amazing to watch a girl that has endured such terrible experiences now striving to give back to the Earth and the people around her. Florence plans to become a nurse or a forester upon graduation, two incredible paths that will allow her to become a positive force for the future of Uganda.

Hope North encourages students like Florence to find hope and determination in the things they love—from song and dance to farming and science. By fostering an environment like this, Uganda will soon have a new generation of peace leaders and change makers.



A boy who knows a written word can change the world.
A Future Doctor

The world relies on stories, whether written or spoken. And from those stories, come more. They foster communication and human connection—and this is just how Francis hopes to use them. He sees literacy as a source of hope and a vessel for peace. But each story always has a starting point—an inciting incident—and Francis’ story is no exception.

© Kimi Takesue

Francis and his parents awoke in the middle of the night to find their hut nearly engulfed in flames. The Lord’s Resistance Army was attacking their village, as it had numerous others. They set fire to homes to force people out, only to kill them. Francis’ parents were unable to escape the flames, while he was taken prisoner. Francis was five years old.

Because Francis was too young to fight, he was forced to carry heavy loads for long distances and forbidden from resting. The LRA’s campaign of brutality took Francis to the border of Sudan, exhausted and starving the entire way. Stopping meant certain death, so Francis remained as sharp as he could. To remedy the immense weight of the salt he carried, he poked small holes in the bag, allowing it to slowly spill out as he walked.

Francis’ captivity continued for seven years before the Ugandan army ambushed the LRA. It allowed Francis an opportunity to escape, and he seized it. He raced to the South Sudan border where he was rescued and transported to Gulu. Unfortunately, his story does not end there.

© Kimi Takesue

Times Gone By
One day happiness will prevail, despite the death of my partents in the war
Owor Simon
Acrylic on paper

While living with family is no doubt an improvement upon being a slave for a violent guerrilla army, the intense stigma that comes with being a child soldier caused reticence among the family members Francis stayed with. To add to his misfortune, Francis was robbed by a corrupt primary school manager, forcing him into a job as a bricklayer in order to afford an education. Due to Francis’ determination and brilliance, he was able to complete primary school through an accelerated program.

From there, Francis found a secondary school in Pajule, but was unable to find the money to finish. In 2013, he discovered Hope North—and a promising future. Through the school, Francis was able to reach his full potential. While he is fascinated by science, and is a talented football player, he expresses himself through stories and jokes.

Francis’ focus on reading and writing have burst open the doors of possibility. He’s become an even brighter student, and plans to attend Gulu University after he graduates. There he’ll rely on his passion for literacy, knowledge, and science to become a doctor in order to alleviate the diseases running rampant in his home district of Pader. Maybe more importantly, it allows him to communicate solutions and ideas that will bring peace and happiness to Uganda, and maybe even the rest of the world.

Hope North encourages students like Francis to find hope and determination in the things they love—from song and dance to farming and science. By fostering an environment like this, Uganda will soon have a new generation of peace leaders and change makers.



A girl who starts a movement one step at a time.
A Future Dancer

Dance is the most popular, and at the same time diverse, form of expression in Uganda, with each tribe having their own specific style. As it is largely inseparable from music, it functions in the same way—as a form of celebration, entertainment, and a vessel for hope.

© Ingrid Songster

Millie is a student who has come to love her form of dance, and even learning those of other tribes. The movement and exhilaration of dance keeps her spirits positive despite the terrible memories of her past, which, ironically, involved a great deal, albeit different kind, of movement as well.

Though it may seem much of the Gulu District is safe from harm, the LRA have still affected the area. When she was 11, Millie was captured, along with her cousin, in her hometown of Paciho. For miles they were forced to carry luggage, sucking the energy out of them.

To make matters worse, their captors had a punishment for everything. If a child complained, they’d lose hand. If a child said they were thirsty, they’d be forced to drink urine or goat’s blood. If they said they were tired, they could very easily be killed. Such was the fate of Millie’s cousin.

© Ingrid Songster

Goodness and health comes from our family, not just our food
Akello Jenneth
Acrylic on paper

For a year, Millie suffered through the bush until a series of fortunate events allowed her to escape. While fetching firewood with six other children, she and the others waited for the guard watching them to be distracted. When he was, they fled. They crawled on their stomachs for a full day until they fell upon a couple who took them in. After treating their wounds, feeding them, clothing them and cutting their hair, the couple brought them to the Gulu army barracks.

The Gulu army sent out a radio announcement, which helped reunite Millie and her mother. However, tragedy had hit her home as well, where her father had been killed by the LRA. As a result, Millie had to work fetching water in order to put herself through school. After finishing primaryschool, Millie discovered Hope North and enrolled in 2011.

At Hope North Millie has found her safe haven. She loves the peaceful environment—something not afforded by other schools—and the ability to learn traditional dances. It has helped her focus her energy on positivity. Upon graduation, Millie plans to attend university, and doesn’t plan to stop dancing.

Hope North encourages students like Millie to find hope and determination in the things they love—from song and dance to farming and science. By fostering an environment like this, Uganda will soon have a new generation of peace leaders and change makers.



A boy who finds harmony through melody.
A Future Journalist

Throughout the world, music is the most popular form of celebration, and in Uganda this is certainly no exception. The use of drums and singing, specifically, play a large role in ceremony and raising spirits.

Patrick knows the power music and song can hold, and harnesses it for good. The music of Uganda, like the people, is incredibly diverse. And with diversity comes the opportunity to embrace and thrive off of each other’s differences. Patrick knows music can always bring people together, which is a hope he has for Uganda. Unfortunately, his past is a story of separation.

Before even reaching his fifth birthday, Patrick became a victim of Joseph Kony’s LRA. He and his parents were captured when the rebels attacked their home in Pajule in the Pader District. The family was forced to walk 200 kilometers to the Sudanese border, with nothing to eat for the first week. When Patrick’s father was injured, the soldiers killed him in front of Patrick and his mother, who were told not to show any emotion.

From there, Patrick and his mother were forced to continue for another 100 kilometers, surviving on only food scraps. When the two were separated into different battalions, Patrick had no idea this was the last time he’d see his mother.

The Rhythm of Life
The drum is a symbol of power, to play it is to breathe power back into life
Kamakech Lawrence
Acrylic on paper

One day Patrick’s battalion was thrown into disarray during a bombing by the Ugandan army, allowing him and the other children to escape. Patrick made it to the town of Agoro where he was able to reach the Ugandan army. Here he stayed for a total of seven months until a radio announcement caught the attention of his sister. Finally Patrick was reunited with his grandmother and seven siblings.

Due to his grandmother’s old age and the family’s limited income from subsistence farming, neither Patrick nor any of his siblings could afford secondary school. That’s when, in 2012, he found Hope North.

At Hope North, Patrick is quite a renaissance student. He loves math, biology, physics, and geography because they help him analyze and understand his surroundings. He also enjoys playing striker and winger for the football team. But his study of culture, and music especially, helps him understand the other people of Uganda, beyond those of his tribe. And through music and the study of culture, he hopes to unite the same people he has learned about. After Patrick graduates Hope North—where he is currently Head Boy— he plans to attend university before running for president of Uganda.

Hope North encourages students like Patrick to find hope and determination in the things they love—from song and dance to farming and science. By fostering an environment like this, Uganda will soon have a new generation of peace leaders and change makers.



A girl who imagines peace and paints it.
A Future Teacher

Visual art—drawing, painting, and sculpture—is one of the oldest forms of communication and storytelling, dating back to cave paintings. Though communication has evolved over thousands of years, art is still used as a source of inspiration and hope.

Irene embraces art in the same way people have for years. She sees the possibilities and opportunities ahead of her, the peaceful resolution throughout her country, and uses them to motivate not only herself, but the community around her as well. While Irene uses art to portray a future of promise and happiness, her past followed a much different theme.

In 2003, the LRA descended upon Irene’s village of Pajule in the Pader District. They captured her along with her father, three sisters, and two brothers. As is the case with many adult men, Irene’s father was killed, while she and her siblings were forced to march to Achobo. It was Christmas Day.

In Achobo, Irene’s siblings managed to escape. However, Irene was not as lucky. She stayed in the captivity of Joseph Kony’s army, often forced to carry 20-kilogram sacks of beans for long distances—a daunting task for a six-year-old girl. When Irene was thirsty, the rebels made her drink her own urine. When she was hungry, she was forced to steal food from nearby villages.

© Ingrid Songster

A Life Once Lived
Layet Florence
Lino Cut

One day, Irene was finally given an opportunity. The Ugandan army ambushed the LRA in the district of Pader. The rebels, distracted by their attackers, left the children unguarded and free to escape. They made it to Gulu where an organization called Caratus took them in. They provided Irene with clothes, a blanket, and a school uniform before seeing her back to Pajule to be with her surviving family.

While Irene had escaped violence, an education was still tough to acquire. She quickly ran out of money for primary school. In order to afford it, she worked washing clothes and fetching water and firewood. Ultimately, her determination led her to finish primary school. But again, the price of school became an issue when she struggled to obtain a scholarship. That’s when Irene discovered Hope North.

Tranquility is a constant theme running through Irene’s time at Hope North. While she enjoys the quiet and calm of the library as she studies English, these same values come forth where her true passion lies—in her art. She uses the pieces she paints to envision and inspire a future in which violence and turmoil are no longer indicative of Uganda.

Irene looks forward to one day becoming a teacher and living a life in which she can pass her warmth onto the students she teaches. Until then, she continues to keep her nose buried in a book and her brush constantly on canvas.

Hope North encourages students like Irene to find hope and determination in the things they love—from song and dance to farming and science. By fostering an environment like this, Uganda will soon have a new generation of peace leaders and change makers.