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Africa and its Children: 3 Stories

(Globe Staff Photo / Dominic Chavez)
Years of war and collapsing social systems in Uganda and other countries have displaced millions of children in Africa, leaving them to make it, if they can, on their own. And millions more African children have become orphans in recent years as AIDS-related diseases have struck down their parents. At a time when the numbers of orphans are declining in almost every corner of the world, the trend in Africa is going the wrong way, and rapidly.

A Globe reporter and photographer spent several weeks in 2004 with three of these children -- three who have found ways to survive, despite the odds. Their lives are full of surprises, some evil, some blessed. And they share a resourcefulness and quiet courage that seems unthinkable for any age. With every reason to have given up, they have not.

Kidnapped and forced to kill -- at age 12

(By John Donnelly, Globe Staff)
Kasmiro Bongonyinge remembers sitting up suddenly in his bed. It was just after sunrise on a summer morning two years ago, and the old man, 87 years old and blind, knew something was wrong.

Children scrounge life out of a Nigerian slum

(By John Donnelly, Globe Staff)
Bidemi Ademibo lost her mother and fled her father. Today she leads a pack of girls, orphans and runaways.

13-year-old orphan becomes head of the family

(By John Donnelly, Globe Staff)
The two old women were debating her future, but 13-year-old Thandeka Motsa could hardly bear to listen.
Over the last year, Globe reporter John Donnelly and photographer Dominic Chavez spent many weeks with three children in Uganda, Nigeria, and Swaziland. The children and their relatives gave permission for the journalists to document their lives and tell their stories. Most of the key events recounted in these stories were directly observed, the dialogue directly heard. Where reconstruction of events was necessary, the accounts were pieced together from many witnesses and verified to the extent possible. Where the account necessarily relies on the recollections of one individual, as with Odongo’s account of his captivity, that is indicated in the text.
To learn more about specific groups helping the three children profiled by The Boston Globe and those in similar situations, email:

 All Nations Church in Lira, Uganda, which helps students who have escaped the Lord's Resistance Army. Contact is Bishop Tom Abraham Okello at
 Health Matters Inc., in Lagos, Nigeria, a non-profit group that helps rehabilitate young people who are on their own, including those on Kuramo Beach. Contacts are Peter Ujomu at, and Dr. Sade Ogunsola at
 Swaziland Positive Living for Life, which assists orphans whose parents have died from AIDS. Contact Siphiwe Hlophe at

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