Uganda womens soldiers trip changed my life says Islington teenager

PUBLISHED: 13:00 16 November 2011 | UPDATED: 13:22 16 November 2011

Pictured from left is Grace Fleary18, Laray Braithwaite 16, Laharney Ettienne 15.

Pictured from left is Grace Fleary18, Laray Braithwaite 16, Laharney Ettienne 15.

Dieter Perry

A teenager who helped film powerful stories of African women forced into war says the experience changed her life.

Grace Fleary, 18, was one of the youngsters from St Mary’s Youth Club in Upper Street, Islington, to visit Uganda in October.

The group stayed at a rehabilitation centre in Lukome, Uganda, run by charity ChildVoice, where 37 former women soldiers exploited during the brutal civil war receive therapy and take training courses.

Islington-based young people filmed their incredible stories with former ITV documentary maker Lois Acton.

Grace, a singer and youth worker, said: “It has been life-changing. You start to re-evaluate everything and realise how much we take for granted. Out there women have been through so much but come out of the programme with such a beautiful spirit. They don’t let hardship define their life.”

Grace wrote Last Woman Standing and filmed the music video in Uganda. She interviewed one former soldier who saw her mother killed when she was abducted aged seven and then fell pregnant at 14.

But Grace said: “The children still want to be children and run around instead of talking about kissing and dating which makes you smile. Everyday was a great day.”

Youth worker Nick Adams, who led the trip, said: “We learned about the journey of the child soldiers and how they overcame trauma which was inspirational. We began to appreciate our advantages. In Africa the value of life is so precious.”

St Mary’s members also enjoyed water-rafting, spent time with a gospel choir, toured the famous Murchison waterfalls, visited a university in Kampala and viewed Jinga which is the source of the River Nile.

An event at St Mary’s on November 4, which celebrated the Uganda stay, featured the Amberleigh Drum and Dance Group.

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