The Thing That Happened is an award-winning documentary short by director Andrew Walton (featuring an original score by Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys and Michael Rohatyn) about Hope North, a boarding school in Uganda for former child soldiers, orphans and other young survivors of Uganda's brutal civil war.
It’s a school, a home, and a promise. Artist and former child soldier Okello Sam founded Hope North in 1998 to provide education and a chance at salvation for those left in the wake of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Hope North is an accredited secondary school, located on a 40-acre campus with an international arts center, vocational training, and a working farm, staffed by 26 dedicated Ugandan educators. To date, the school has helped thousands of vulnerable youth.
© Tadej Znidarcic
Simply put, because every child should be given the opportunity to be a child. Tens of thousands of young Ugandans have been abducted and forced to become child soldiers for the LRA, while the war has made refugees and orphans of over a million others. Hope North provides these children with a safe haven along with the skills and experience to find and spread peace in the wake of tragedy while also preserving their Acholi culture. Hundreds of former Hope North students are working towards their degrees and planning their careers.
The LRA insurgency started in 1987 and has continued, despite help from neighboring countries.
The number of Ugandans displaced due to the brutal civil war.
© Ingrid Songster
Hope North sits in the town of Masindi, an hour southwest of Gulu. The location of Hope North was carefully chosen to provide protection from unpredictable violence, while also preserving a connection to Acholi culture, of which all Hope North residents are members. By locating Hope North within an Acholi-speaking region, it minimizes the sense of isolation and dislocation that comes with being a refugee.
As in most cases like these, Hope North relies on a community of people who see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. They’re determined to establish peace, and to pass their inspiration to young minds who will grow up to do the same. Hope North is fortunate enough to have a wonderful staff in Uganda, as well as several friends who are spreading awareness throughout the world.
The school now has 300 students from ages 2-22. Hope North is seeking funding to help establish a solid foundation for the future of each one.
There is currently a staff of 15 teachers trained to be sensitive to the special needs of Hope North’s young population.
Okello Sam is a well-known Ugandan dance and theater artist whose family was directly affected by the war in the north. He and his brother were abducted, and rebels eventually killed Godfrey.
His home devastated, Okello Sam purchased a large tract of land to serve as a sanctuary for his community, and on which to build Hope North.
Actress Susan Sarandon was recently honored at Variety Magazine’s Power of Women luncheon on April 25 for her work with Hope North. Susan has been a great supporter of Hope North for many years. The school couldn’t be more excited and proud of her for receiving this prestigious award. Susan continues to be one of the loudest voices speaking on behalf of Hope North.
Actress Mary-Louise Parker, just as Susan Sarandon, remains one of the loudest international voices for Hope North. She constantly makes time to raise money and awareness for the school through a number of events and press appearances that help shine light on the issues in Uganda and the great amount of good the school is doing.
Actor Forest Whitaker is an award-winning actor known for his role in, among many great films, The Last King of Scotland, a film about the brutal reign of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Forest plays a major humanitarian role at Hope North and was honored at the second annual Hope North gala in 2014. He continues to support the school through speaking events both around the world and at the school itself.