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Lemar returns to Africa for Christian Aid Week
16 May 2007 11:08:00 GMT
Christian Aid
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Lemar travelled to northern Uganda to see for himself how Christian Aid partners are dealing with HIV and AIDS, climate change and the effects of 21 years of civil war.

The Brit-award-winning singer visited Soroti in the east of the country to see the work of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), where he was serenaded by pupils from the Orongo High School with poems and songs like 'We are the Young Generation.' Lemar then met Emmanuel and Nimulod, two teenagers orphaned by HIV.

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YWAM is ensuring the boys are educated. 'There was ignorance in the community about the causes and effect of HIV and what it is,' Lemar reflected, 'and YWAM fills a very basic need that is so vital.'

Lemar also met Calvin Oboi and his family who are battling against erratic weather conditions in Uganda which have wreaked havoc on their crops. Last year Calvin's sorghum and cassava seeds were ruined when the rains failed.

Another Christian Aid partner TEDDO have offered Calvin seeds for different crop strains that are less reliant on rainfall.

'The seeds TEDDO provided were of great assistance to us,' Calvin told Lemar. 'From what we planted, my family and I soon had enough to eat and then sell to other farmers. We have been able to make enough money to build a house.'

After taking tea in Calvin's new house. Lemar visited some camps occupied by those displaced during Uganda's civil conflict.

The conflict has torn families apart and caused enormous trauma and suffering. More than 20,000 children have been either abducted by the notoriously brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), forced to fight for them or to become the so-called 'wives' of the rebel commanders.

In Gulu, 139 schoolgirls were taken from the dormitories by the LRA. This prompted a group of grieving parents to form the Concerned Parents Association (CPA). Lemar met one of the founders of CPA, Phoebe Okello. Phoebe's daughter escaped from the LRA after eight years and Phoebe shared her experiences with Lemar.

'Phoebe's situation made me realise how complex things are,' he said. 'On one hand, the rebels took her daughter and she was angry but after eight years away, her daughter has had a child by them and fought for them.

Now all these children are coming home, having been forced to do terrible things, and everyone needs to move on. That's why the talk of forgiving is so strong.'

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This was Lemar's second trip to Africa with Christian Aid after visiting Ethiopia in 2005. His visits have had a profound effect on him.

Christian Aid's work is referenced on his album sleeve and tour programme and he has written pieces for his website, Touch magazine and the New Nation newspaper as well as making films for GMTV which will air on Wednesday 16 May .

He remains a committed Christian Aid ambassador and hopes to stay involved in our work on climate change later in the year. As he said when boarding his flight from Kampala, 'I go back to my house and my day job, where the people I met go back and fight their battle and leaving reminds me how real it is for them.'

[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]

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Africa Union peacekeepers from Uganda carry the coffins of four killed colleagues at Mogadishu's international airport May 17, 2007. A roadside bomb exploded near Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi's convoy on Thursday as it sped through the capital Mogadishu, but no one was hurt, the government said.



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