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Eli Segal Award First Runner-Up – Sarita Hartz

November 4, 2010

Sarita Hartz is the founder of the Zion Project Organization, an organization dedicated to the holistic rehabilitation of vulnerable women and girls in Northern Uganda.  The Zion Project is currently based in Gulu, Uganda and operates out of a counseling center and safe home.  At first the Zion Project provided counseling and vocational training to child mothers and formally abducted girls, but now has expanded its focus to provide the same to Congolese immigrants who wish to leave the commercial sex industry.

In 2006, Sarita left for a six month pilgrimage to Africa where she saw the need to provide healing to the women of these war ravaged regions.  Sarita saw the damage that was left as child soldiers, and child mothers found their way to displaced

persons’ camps or villages.  These women and girls were in desperate need of counseling, education, and financial assistance.

In 2008, the program began with providing child-soldiers and bush wives (young girls forced into “marriages” with Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers, most of who were abandoned after they became pregnant) shelter in a rehabilitation home for yearlong increments.  Here they were given food, clothing, medical treatment, childcare, and school or vocational training.  Just as important, these women and girls were also given intensive individual and group counseling and therapy.  Creative methods of therapy were used including Sarita’s innovative idea to use a connection to one’s culture as a way to perpetuate healing.  

Soon a second rehabilitation home was created and the program doubled in size, but in 2009 a new issue regarding vulnerable women in Northern Uganda had become apparent.  When the LRA was forced out of Northern Uganda, numerous soldiers fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Many of the soldiers who took refuge in DRC  took bush wives back with them to Northern Uganda.  Often times these women were abandoned and left with no way to support themselves or their children, and turned to the commercial sex industry.  In response the Zion Project expanded its focus and established another home for vulnerable Congolese women trying to escape the commercial sex industry.   Group and individual therapy was offered to help these women heal, as well as business and vocational training.  These women are trained in T-shirt screen printing, handbag tailoring, bead making, and jewelry design and assembly.  Their products are exported and sold in the U.S. and all profits go directly to the women.

Sarita works and lives in Uganda, but when back in the U.S. she travels to shares her stories and spreads awareness of the Zion Project.  You can too!  Click here for a link to the Zion Project Organization website.  There are several ways to donate, including sponsoring a girl by giving a consistent donation each month.

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