July 23, 2019

The Warriors of House 1

The song, “I’m Still Here” by Juliana Kanyomozi (below) is still in my head weeks after hearing it for the first time. I was sitting on the couch in House 1—the house where participants under 18 live—surrounded by Willow staff and visitors. The girls were dancing and showing off their moves. Many were performing traditional dances from their respective tribes.

The music died down and they rushed to the stereo to put on the next song. A special song. This song.

They broke into a perfectly choreographed dance and my heart skipped a beat. Between the lyrics, the passion they exuded as they sang along, their smiles, and their pride—it took all my self-control to hold back the tears. It was one of the most beautiful moments I witnessed in Uganda. As they danced in unison and emphasized the “I’m still here,” lyric, I couldn’t help but think about what these young girls had gone through, what they had overcome, and the work still left to be done on their healing journey.

A young mother, no more than 15 or 16, was among the dancers. She had given birth just 6 weeks prior to a baby boy. I watched as she cared for the tiny baby between songs—just a child herself.

When I was asked by a visitor if some of the younger girls were children of adult survivors, it pained me to have to say “No—they are the survivors.” It’s an unfathomable concept and one that is still difficult to process. No child should ever have to go through what they have. But as the song (the official anthem of House 1) states, they are warriors. They are still here. And they will rise again.

As our visit came to an end, the girls participated in a heated game of Countries (a matching game similar to Spoons) where they raced to get four of a kind and have their hand first in the pile.

Seeing them laugh and play together, free to be kids, I felt comfort knowing that although they have experienced pain, it does not define them.

They are strong beyond their years. They will endure.

 

I’m Still Here by Juliana Kanyomozi

Situations come and go
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Another day another go
Another day to be a mighty warrior
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (I fear no evil)
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (I’ll be alright)

I’m still here, I’ve been through the fire
I’m still here, I’ve through the jungle
I’m still here… Yeah
I’ve been through the fire
I’ve been through the storm but I’m still here

Every day is a brand new chance to grow
Always looking forward to tomorrow
Doesn’t matter if I rise and fall
I know there’s a mighty God behind me
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (I fear no evil)
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (I’ll be alright)

I’m still here, I’ve been through the fire
I’m still here, I’ve been through the jungle
I’m still here… Yeah
I’ve been through the fire
I’ve been through the storm but I’m still here

I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior
I bend but never break
I get up on my feet and rise again
I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior
I bend but never break
I get up on my feet and rise again

I’m still here
I’ve been through the fire
I’m still here,
I’ve been through the jungle
I’m still here… Yeah
I’ve been through the fire
I’ve been through the jungle but I’m still here (but I’m still here)

I’m still here,
I’ve been through the fire
I’m still here
I’ve been through the jungle
I’m still here… Yeah
I’ve been through the fire
I’ve been through the storm but I’m still here

I’m a fighter aaaahhh
I’m a fighter aaaahhh eeeehheehh

 

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