Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Moving to Hopetown

Moving in and out of an IDP camp called Hopetown. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever been – a world within a world. Like a town in some ways – streets and streets of identical huts packed together, children playing, people everywhere. But somehow there’s not a lot of activity. Thousands of people are here, but it doesn’t feel like they’re doing anything. I suppose there’s nothing for them to do, apart from just exist. Some of them have been here for 15 years and seem resigned to never being able to leave and get back to their normal lives.

It’s not a happy place. I don’t feel totally safe here – for this to be a refuge for these people, their alternative must have been unthinkably dangerous.

But it’s not all bad. I’ve seen people singing, dancing and laughing with each other. There are people cooking outside their huts and selling crops and other goods. There are makeshift schools in the camp. People are incredibly resourceful and they’re making what life they can here, improvising a community.

And overall things are getting better in Uganda. The conflict is dying down and some of these people may be able to start going home – those that have anything left to go back to.
Hopetown’s not the camp’s real name, just a nickname I’ve heard a lot of the residents use. Maybe it was meant as some sort of grim joke when the camp was started at the height of the war, but I think it’s becoming more appropriate.