Vicky Collins Online

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I Support Kony2012

Joseph Kony is infamous for his atrocities and crimes against humanity in Uganda and neighboring countries and now the group Invisible Children is trying to make him famous.  Kony is one of the most sought after war criminals and the hope is by bringing attention to him the whole world will engage and finally hunt him down and let justice be served.  His Kony’s Lords Resistance Army brutalized the people of Northern Uganda for 25 years, abducting children and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.  An entire region and generation were brutalized and broken.  Now Kony has fled from Uganda and has escaped into the Congo.  He continues his senseless killing and the U.S. has even sent troops to help Uganda’s military track him down.  A couple of years ago we met some of the child soldiers who had escaped and were being prepared to return home at Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.  Their stories are painful but they are also hopeful. Here is the video we produced for HDNet World Report:

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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Uganda’s Child Soldiers on PBS

As a journalist I’m used to working long days.  Adrenaline keeps you in the game for 16 to 20 hours during breaking news and disaster coverage.  You sleep for three hours then you’re back at it.  But nothing prepared me for how exhausted I would be after just a couple of hours of listening to the painful testimonies of young Ugandan men and women who had been abducted as children and forced to fight in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.  We produced the story for the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer when we traveled to Uganda this past June.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/july-dec10/uganda_11-16.html

During our journey we met up with the young men at World Vision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.  We also spoke with Sarah at her home in Orum in the Otuke District of Northern Uganda.  For 20 years kids as young as 9 were taken from their villages, marched to Sudan where they were trained to be soldiers, and sent out in the battlefield whether they were ready or not.  Michael told us how he was forced to kill his own brother.  Justin showed us his body riddled with bullet wounds.  Sarah gave us a tour of the village, pointing out graves including her sister’s.  It was a senseless civil war and the children didn’t even know why they were fighting.  Estimates are that 30,000 children were kidnapped but those are considered conservative.  More than likely the number is over 50,000.  Many spent their entire childhood in captivity and if they were not killed in battle or shot by ruthless commanders, if they survived their wounds and the traumas they witnessed, they might have been lucky enough to escape or be captured by the Ugandan government and sent into the arms of NGO’s like World Vision who work to rehabilitate them so they can be returned to their villages.  It is tough work.  Many of these children come home as young adults after spending the majority of their lives in the bush.  They have been robbed of their education and have little hope for the future.  They need to trust again.  They suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and depression.  One half of them were forced to kill someone.  Communities have mixed feelings about taking them back.  After all, these rebels killed tens of thousands of people and forced almost two million from their homes.  It’s understandable that there are some hard feelings.  Northern Uganda is at peace again and people have returned to their villages.  It’s hard to imagine this terror just a few years ago. But the physical and emotional scars endure for these children.  For their families.  For the people of the region.  And the LRA has not gone away.  Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has just moved next door where they are traumatizing the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For a longer version of the story watch the link below to see what we produced for HDNet’s World Report.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/15209575?portrait=0&color=ffffff

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Uganda’s Child Soldiers: In Their Own Words

As a journalist I’m used to working long days.  Adrenaline keeps you in the game for 16 to 20 hours during breaking news and disaster coverage.  You sleep for three hours then you’re back at it.  But nothing prepared me for how exhausted I would be after just a couple of hours of listening to the painful testimonies of young Ugandan men and women who had been abducted as children and forced to fight in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.  We produced the story you see below for HDNet’s World Report when we traveled to Uganda this past June. During our journey we met up with the young men at World Vision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.  We also spoke with Sarah at her home in Orum in the Otuke District of Northern Uganda.  For 20 years kids as young as 9 were taken from their villages, marched to Sudan where they were trained to be soldiers, and sent out in the battlefield whether they were ready or not.  Michael told us how he was forced to kill his own brother.  Justin showed us his body riddled with bullet wounds.  Sarah gave us a tour of the village, pointing out graves including her sister’s.  It was a senseless civil war and the children didn’t even know why they were fighting.  Estimates are that 30,000 children were kidnapped but those are considered conservative.  More than likely the number is over 50,000.  Many spent their entire childhood in captivity and if they were not killed in battle or shot by ruthless commanders, if they survived their wounds and the traumas they witnessed, they might have been lucky enough to escape or be captured by the Ugandan government and sent into the arms of NGO’s like World Vision who work to rehabilitate them so they can be returned to their villages.  It is tough work.  Many of these children come home as young adults after spending the majority of their lives in the bush.  They have been robbed of their education and have little hope for the future.  They need to trust again.  They suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and depression.  One half of them were forced to kill someone.  Communities have mixed feelings about taking them back.  After all, these rebels killed tens of thousands of people and forced almost two million from their homes.  It’s understandable that there are some hard feelings.  Northern Uganda is at peace again and people have returned to their villages.  It’s hard to imagine this terror just a few years ago. But the physical and emotional scars endure for these children.  For their families.  For the people of the region.  And the LRA has not gone away.  Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has just moved next door where they are traumatizing the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/15209575?portrait=0&color=ffffff

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Out of Africa

Just returned from a three week trip to Uganda where we did more video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  The highlight was seeing women who were dying of poverty just three years ago celebrate paying off homes they saved for and built themselves.  In a joyous ceremony BeadforLife presented 22 women with the titles to the land they sit on.  The women paraded from home to home dancing and ululating, and from what I heard they partied late into the night.  Women owners are extremely rare in Africa and BeadforLife’s Friendship Village in Mukono is an example of what’s possible.  Housing ministers from all over Africa came a few days later to see Friendship Village for themselves and other countries throughout the region are looking to emulate this poverty eradication success story.   

This trip we also visited Murchison Falls National Park to see the animals and also learn more about the oil drilling that’s going on there which is quite shocking in such a pristine place.  It is all happening very quietly and needs to be exposed.  We also visited Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu.  To hear the testimonies of young men who were abducted in grade school, held captive for 15 years, and forced to be child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is extremely sobering.  One boy was forced to kill his own brother, another had 22 gunshot scars and a third, thankfully, was now back in school and in his village.  I will blog more about this all later but my friend Mark Jordahl, who was with us on our trip and is a prominent conservationist in Uganda, has written a very powerful blog about the child soldiers.  I hope you’ll read his very moving account of the experience. 

http://conserveuganda.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/what-if-it-was-my-son/

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Passover in Kampala

Chag Sameach.  It means “joyous festival” and is a popular greeting during Passover.  With the Jewish celebration of freedom here again I recall our very special Passover seder in Kampala, Uganda.  I posted this as the very first story on my blog back in May 2008.  My story also ran in the Denver Post in spring 2007.

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_5534210

Cinematographer Paul Hillman and I are heading back to Kampala, Uganda again in June to do more video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  It is our third trip.  This time we are focusing on the NGO’s market linkage program where women in the war torn villages near Lira and Gulu are getting assistance bringing their shea butter product to consumers.  What makes this extraordinary is the backstory.  All the women were refugees from the brutal reign of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.  For 19 years he and his men (many of them children) burned villages, raped women, killed men and abducted boys and girls in a senseless civil war.  With his retreat into the Congo these women have now returned from the refugee camps to their villages and are trying to get back on their feet by manufacturing shea butter which is a popular ingredient in cosmetics.  BeadforLife is linking these women to markets.  Other NGO’s are starting to do this on a small scale in Congo and Sudan which also have been wreaked by terrible hardship and civil war.  We are heading to the villages and expect the material to be powerful and compelling.  If you want to read about Kony and his murderous band of thugs in Congo today here is an article from the New York Times.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/world/africa/28congo.html?ref=global-home

For more on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com