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Sarita Hartz ('02)

Director, Zion Project

Photo: Sarita Hartz ('02)

In March 2006, Sarita traveled to Uganda for five months and saw things she had only read about. She explains, "I saw the disease, starvation and desperation of communities that were now forced to live in crowded camps because of a 20-year war that the outside world knows little about." In that war between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government, an astonishing 80 percent of the LRA is comprised of child soldiers who are abducted from their families and forced to fight against the government and the civilian population. Many are girls who are raped by LRA soldiers and become child mothers. "I sat down and spoke with these girls and found that while some are taken to reception centers upon escaping their captors, most do not receive counseling or care after being returned to their camp. Their neighbors often call them and their children 'killers.'" Inspired by the stories of these young child mothers, Sarita returned to the U.S. to create Zion Project, a Christian, nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming hearts and empowering the lives of girl child soldiers to revolutionize Northern Uganda. "I just decided that if I wanted the world to be different, then I had to stop complaining and do something about it," she says of this grassroots organization, which is committed to "bringing heaven to earth."