Survivors of northern Uganda’s conflicts are filled with fear and painful memories every day.
A non-profit organization in the area discovered that sometimes the ‘best person’ that can help traumatized war survivors might not be a human after all.
Filda Akumu, 12, and her two brothers were abducted from their home in Gulu. She was forcibly recruited to the group and was given a gun to fight.
It was a whole year in the thick forest of northern Uganda that left Filda with a horrifying memory of being helpless and hopeless. Especially when her brothers were tortured and killed in front of her.
Francis Oloya Okello, founder of the Comfort Dog Project, and Sarah Schmidt, the project coordinator of the organization, train strays, and unwanted pups to be therapy dogs.
One of the dogs they trained is a Basenji-breed stray pup which they partnered up with Filda.
When she was able to escape and when she contracted cholera and was left by the LRA armed men to die on the trail. Filda began to go back to her hometown, hoping she wouldn’t cross paths with her abductors ever again.
Some welcomed Filda, but most of the community called her a murderer. In response to the adverse reactions, she named her dog “Lok Oroma,” which means “No more gossip, your words can’t hurt me” in Acholi, her local language.
Lok Oroma has helped Filda’s mental health. She was taught how to manage her anger and deal with her emotions, by calling Lok Oroma and rubbing the pooch’s back.
Filda said, if it weren’t for Lok Oroma, she would be dead. She knew that the dog saved her life.