Reporter embraces humanitarian journalism

By Diana Vilares
November 1, 2007

Carolyn Davis, Philadelphia Inquirer editorial writer, visited Cabrini last Thursday, Oct. 25 and spoke about the current war situation in Uganda that is taking the lives of innocent people and children.Approximately 30-70,000 children have been abducted in this 21-year-old war.

“It has been an overlooked crisis and the media is partially to blame for that,” Davis said.

Davis, who is looking to create a niche known as “humanitarian journalism” followed a story of a little girl named Jennifer Anyayo who was victim to the damaging behavior of a rebel group called The Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA is led by Joseph Kony and is made up of young children that are taken from their homes and forced to be rebel soldiers.

Often when the young girls return home, their families turn them away after learning that they slept with the commanders or reject the babies if the girls return pregnant.

Davis met Anyayo, then 15, at an internal displacement camp where she learned how Anyayo had survived a fire that was set to her hut by one of the rebels when she was only nine years old.

Anyayo cheated death by covering herself with a goatskin, however, was left with a various disfigurations to her face, chest, and hair and is without a hand.

“When I first met her, I never said this to her, but she almost didn’t look human,” Daivs said.

Davis organized pre-medical care for Anyayo and flew her to the United States where she underwent various reconstructive surgeries, one of which included pumping saline into pouches implanted under her skin which in turn would stretch the skin so that doctor Craig Dufresne would be able to bring her hairline down further.

“Now, there are certain things you should know. Jennifer was brave. Jennifer was remarkable in certain ways, but just because someone is a war victim doesn’t make them some sort of spotless pure person,” Davis said. “Jennifer has a real bratty side to her.”

Davis feared that Anyayo would return home spoiled due to all of the attention and opportunities given to her from readers, but then realized that when Anyayo returned to Uganda she was “starting to look like a young woman who had self-confidence and a better self-image”.

Davis returned to Uganda with Anyayo where Anyayo was welcomed like a “rock star” by her fellow classmates and with warm hugs by her mother and sister.

The war in Uganda has been recently sedated, however Davis says that “it could crumble any minute”.

The Ugandan people are starting to rebuild their lives, but there is still much to be done.

“How do you give people back their dignity? How do you give them back some of the most simplest means of earning an income?” Davis said. “All of this is part of repairing and rebuilding”.

Davis offered various websites for anyone who wants to learn more about the current conditions in Uganda.

The websites included, a page with Davis’s work on Anyayo’s story and other information on the war.

“Get your friends and neighbors to go to and maybe we’ll let them [editors] know that the stories are being read and people are interested,” Davis said.

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Diana Vilares

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