Scholar Adopts Cause of Child War Victim
By Jessie Fredlund ’07
Last July, when she first met
Opiyo Ivan, an 8-year-old boy living on the streets of Gulu,
Uganda, Jeannette Quinn AC’08 noticed much of his skin
was covered in scar tissue. More than a third of his body
had been badly burned, and his arms were awkwardly attached
to his chest, inhibiting his ability to move.
Ivan, Quinn learned, had been
a victim of one of the many raids perpetrated by the Lord’s
Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel paramilitary group known for
its brutal attacks in northern Uganda.
Though Quinn, who was working
as a volunteer with war-affected children in the city, did
not speak to Ivan (she did not know Acholi, Ivan’s native
language) the boy left a lasting impression on her.
“I told myself I would
not pass him by,” she says.
She didn’t. A week later,
Quinn came across Ivan again when he approached her on the
Gulu street. She located a translator and was able to hear
his story for the first time.
Since that meeting, Quinn has
become determined to help Ivan obtain the surgeries he will
need to prevent permanent disability. With the help of Save
the Children, a worldwide charity, Caritas Gulu, a Ugandan
relief organization, and several of her friends in the United
States, Quinn arranged for Ivan’s initial surgery at
a Ugandan hospital. He will need many more before he turns
Quinn applied to the Shriners’
Hospitals for Children to take Ivan on as a patient in the
U.S. He was recently accepted by Shriners'.
To raise money for the boy’s
travel and expenses, Quinn began the Opiyo Ivan Fund.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, the Smith
African and Caribbean Students Association (SACSA) will donate
proceeds from its annual SACSA Jam, themed “Celebrating
the African Child,” to the Opiyo Ivan Fund. The SACSA
Jam is a benefit that celebrates the food, art and culture
of the African diaspora with a dinner, a multi-faceted performance
and a party.
“It was a fantastic opportunity
for SACSA,” says Arame Tall ’07, co-chair of SACSA.
“We as African students on campus have always been looking
for ways to connect with what’s happening on the ground,
and Jeannette’s project gave us an opportunity to do
If the Shriners’ Hospitals
accept Ivan as a long-term patient, he will live with Quinn
until he turns 18.
she first heard Ivan's story through an interpreter on the
street, Quinn was heartbroken and moved to act on his behalf.
When Ivan as a 5-year-old
boy fled the LRA attack with his parents, his mother was shot
and wounded. Ivan fell into boiling water, causing his scarring.
Since that attack, Ivan
has been unable to receive medical care. He has suffered physical
and verbal abuse from members of his community, and in a society
where children are expected to help their families economically,
he has not been able to contribute to the family’s welfare.
Feeling ostracized, Ivan
took to the streets of Gulu, where he met Quinn.
“Opiyo is a very
sweet, gregarious, bright kid,” says Quinn. “He
really wants to go back to school.”
Though his parents are
still part of Ivan’s life, they are powerless to help
their son, living with very few resources in an Internally
Displaced Persons Camp in Uganda.
“They said that they
appreciated that I had stepped in and given him an opportunity
because they felt very defeated,” says Quinn of Ivan’s
parents. “His mother said I was his second mother.”
SACSA members say they
look forward to seeing Ivan at Smith—maybe even at their
“Our greatest reward
would be if we were able to see him healthy and happy, walking
around the streets of campus,” said Tall.