For over three years Sean Farrell (40) and his wife Irene have lived and worked in the African country of Uganda. Sean, a native of the parish of Dromard, arrived in Uganda shortly after the cessation of a 20-year war where he took up the post of Country Director for Trocaire.
“The northern part (of Uganda) is coming out of a brutal 20-year conflict. Trocaire is helping communities to return home after this conflict as up to two million of them were displaced during the war,” said Sean, speaking to the Leader from Uganda. “For the most part many of them were living in huge refugee camps. Some were there for anywhere between five and 20 years.”
Now Trocaire is responding to the aftermath of that displacement and the impact of the warfare in terms of loss of human life.
“I spend a lot of time travelling and visiting the north of the country. We travel between five and ten hours to get to these communities. Half of my time is spent sitting under the branches of a mango tree as that is where the villagers will meet and where we discuss the various projects that Trocaire is funding in these areas,” said Sean, whose wife Irene recently gave birth to their first child Cara (1).
These projects are financed by funds collected in Ireland and among them is the land rights project. Many women were widowed during the war, and in some cases children are now the heads of their families. Trocaire’s land rights project works to ensure that vulnerable members of Ugandan society are returned to the land from which they came.
“In some cases you will have a 15 or 16 year-old who is now the head of a family. For many, they would have left their homes ten years earlier for the camps. They have no recollection where their land was. So we spend a lot of time helping design projects which protect their land rights,” said Sean.
Other projects include helping people plant their fields once again, providing seeds and tools, providing Oxen for ploughing, and in some cases providing water points.
In return, Sean believes that the response he and his six-person team get from the Ugandans is “overwhelming”.
“These are people who have come out of a terrible history. For instance Uganda was famous for its child soldiers during the war, many of them under 12 years of age. Their animals were all killed and their farmlands overgrown,” said Sean. “In many ways they are starting life all over again.”
Sean, who has previously worked in the Phillippines and Romania, has worked for Trocaire for 11 years.
“We are 100 percent committed to our work here in Uganda and to the difference that it is making in people’s lives,” said Sean, who is a son of Owen and Margaret. “Please return your Trocaire box and give what you can this year. We really do appreciate the support of the people in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise.”
To find out more about the campaign or make a donation log on to www.trocaire.org/lent or call 1850 408 408.