Several months after receiving paralegal training through Just Like My Child Foundation's (JLMC's) Project Justice, community legal volunteers are actively responding to domestic violence cases in their communities, mediating between husband and wife, or parents and children with great success. This past week, our staff had the pleasure of interviewing two of the community legal volunteers, Olowo John and Serina, in the village of Giriyadda, where JLMC is constructing St. Kizito Primary School through Project Universal Education. Today, we introduce you to Olowo John and some of the people he has helped.
Olowo John is the deputy head teacher at St. Kizito Primary School. He was chosen by his community to participate in the 10-day paralegal training facilitated by FIDA, an organization of Ugandan women lawyers. He expressed much thanks for the opportunity to participate in the training, because it helped widen his knowledge as a person and empowered him to help people in his community. John spends his free time counseling families suffering from domestic violence and tries to sensitize the communities about women's and children's rights, telling parents to handle their children with care and respect. John said he is "proud to be chosen and be a part of [Project Justice]."
John shared several stories with us about the people he's counseled and the lives he's helped change.
There is a young boy who took 200 shillings (less than 5 cents) from his father without permission. The father responded by tying his son's hands together with banana fiber and setting him on fire. John said if the father had known about the rights of the child, he would not have burned his son. His son made a mistake, but the punishment was beyond excessive. Since receiving the FIDA training, John visits homes, like this one, trying to counsel families where there is domestic violence.
The community legal volunteers solve domestic violence cases through mediation whenever possible, a different approach from what people are use to in the United States - the first response tends to be to send the offender of the violent act immediately to jail. Mediation, if successful, allows families in Uganda to stay together and even strengthens relationships and ties to the community.
A parent at John's school is a drunkard. His wife approached John to complain that she can't pay the school fees that buy her son porridge and tea for lunch because her husband "boozes." John went to speak to the husband to tell him that his child is without porridge and tea, and when the boy is hungry he cannot study well. Several weeks later, John went back to the wife to find out if the situation had improved, which the wife confirmed had improved. John returned to the home several more times to visit with the couple and soon became good friends with the family. Over time, the situation at the home changed. The boy's school fees were paid so he can eat lunch at school, and he is even participating on an end of year school field trip paid by his father.
John works closely with two other paralegals in his area. They share their experiences and often work cases together to help each other out.
There is still a need for more sensitization trainings and community dialogues to try to change the attitudes and behaviors toward women and children. But, the JLMC staff is really excited about Project Justice because there have been so many positive and life-changing outcomes in such a short time. JLMC will be working closely with our local partners, including newly trained paralegals like John, to come up with a plan of action for the year to increase the number of success stories.
Stay tuned as we introduce you to Serina later this week, another exceptional community legal volunteer who others are turning to: "If you have a problem, you call Serina."
In the meantime, help support JLMC's efforts in creating healthy communities in Uganda.