POTSDAM Clarkson University students are helping villagers in a remote area of Uganda find their voice.
The students are helping Ricky Richard Anywar, a former Ugandan child soldier, establish a radio station in the northern town of Pader.
The project combines the technical expertise of Clarkson professors and students with the humanitarian efforts of an ex-child soldier.
In May, a group of Clarkson students visited Kenya and Uganda with Augustine A. Lado, professor of consumer and organizational studies.
Clarkson has recently signed up to work with Ricky on a radio project in Uganda, said Mr. Lado. Part of the trip was in addition to providing a learning experience for students, it was to go and visit the place and try for the proposed radio station and conduct a little bit of a feasibility study.
Clarkson students have already investigated the economic viability of the radio station, said Mr. Lado, but would also assist in some of the technical aspects of the project.
It is still in the beginning stages of trying to figure out what is needed to get the radio station really sustainable, he said. We have been in contact with people on the ground to give us the technical side of the station.
Mr. Lado said Clarkson students and faculty would play an ongoing role in studying and providing content to the radio station.
Once we figure it out and get the station established, it will continue to be a learning project for students, he said.
Mr. Anywar said the village has few services.
In Pader, we have bad roads, he said. Electricity just came last year. There is no running water, and communications are poor. I am planning to set up the radio station to bridge the gap.
The area also was hit hard by civil war between the Ugandan government and the Lords Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony.
The LRA stayed there for a long time because it was so remote, said Mr. Anywar. They committed many atrocities.
Mr. Lado said a community radio station would serve as a resource to the people in the region, as opposed to a for-profit commercial radio station.
It is a community-based radio station, he said. The focus is on producing local content and disseminating information to the community, critical information, education, economics, business, all aspects that make a community viable.
Mr. Anywar said the radio station would help the conflicts victims tell their stories.
The radio station will help to amplify the voices of the displaced people in northern Uganda, he said. It will help them share their experience.
The nearest newspaper to Pader takes more than six hours to reach the village, said Mr. Anywar, but most of the villagers are mostly illiterate.
The radio station is the only means they have for communication, he said. With the radio station we can rebuild our community, we can connect villagers to private sector investors and we can use it to build peace and educate our people.
Establishing a community-based radio station would have many benefits, he said.
Mr. Anywar is the founder of Friends of Orphans, a humanitarian group dedicated to rehabilitating and reintegrating former child soldiers.