AOL JOYCE is a 22 year old wife, mother of 4, farmer, and Abaana’s Hope jewelry maker. Her husband is a boda driver in the village. Together they farm g-nuts, sim-sim, millet, and maize. Before becoming a mother of 2 girls and one boy, she completed Primary 7 in school (the highest grade before secondary school). She had to quit school at that point because she had lost her father and her mother could not pay for all her siblings to attend school. After her older sibling died, she became the oldest child and took on all the responsibilities that come with that role. Joyce is a happy, beautiful, talented, Acholi woman – originally from Laroo (a community just outside of Gulu Town). She is thankful for her job with Abaana’s Hope because it will allow her to pay school fees for her kids, buy medicines when her family is sick, and provide other household needs. During the time that the Lord’s Resistance Army was terrorizing Northern Uganda, Joyce and her family spent 10 years in an Internally Displaced People Camp (IDP). She recalls the struggle for food, money, safety, and schooling. Food was provided by the United Nations, but it was never enough to feed everyone. To make money, she would fetch water for people building new structures in town or help dig in the gardens. Schools were available for displaced people, but they were not free – which made it difficult for most to receive an education during this time.
Joyce’s only direct encounter with the rebels came after a fun-filled day of athletics. Her brother was attending Teacher’s College in Gulu Town. All of a sudden, the rebels came to Pece Stadium and a heavy rain began to fall. Joyce’s brother ran to hide at someone else’s home. Soon, the rebels were going door to door asking people what foods they had inside. They took whatever they wanted from people unable to stop them.
That night, Joyce slept on the floor of her hut with her legs facing the door. Rebels entered her home. They stepped on her legs and she awoke. The rebels were searching for items to take. Joyce’s sister-in-law kept telling her to calm down. She balled herself up so she would appear to be a small child. It worked. The men left with sorghum, beans, and a bag, but not Joyce. Many others were captured that night, but not Joyce. Sadly, everyone at the home where her brother fled to was captured. Joyce has never heard from her brother since he ran from Pece Stadium that rainy night. She is still holding out hope that she will one day greet her brother again.