Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 148, Issue 31

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Ms. Evelyn Apoko

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, almost a year ago today, several of us welcomed a special young woman named Evelyn Apoko to Parliament Hill. Evelyn, as you may remember, is a 20-year-old young woman from Northern Uganda.

Growing up in a time of political instability and conflict, she was subject to extreme tragedy. One night, when she was 9 years old, Evelyn and her family sought refuge in what they thought was a safe house. Unfortunately, they were mistaken. They had walked into a house occupied by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Evelyn was separated from her family and abducted. Here she was abused physically, mentally and emotionally and deprived of the most basic necessities.

One day, when she was 10 years old, Evelyn was caught in an air raid where a bomb exploded near her, blowing away part of her face. She did not receive medical attention for two years.

At the tender age of 13, after being emotional scarred and physically disfigured, Evelyn mustered up enough courage and successfully escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army. She managed to return home to Uganda, where she received the medical attention she desperately needed and underwent three surgeries. She then went to the United States, where she had several additional surgeries.

While Evelyn was visiting Ottawa this time last year, she received a warm welcome from several parliamentarians. When I was speaking to her last week, she told me about the standing ovation she received from Prime Minister Harper and the entire House of Commons. She also informed me that she proudly put up the picture of her and Speaker Kinsella in her bedroom as she felt that he empowered her in a very special way.

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Honourable senators, I am extremely pleased to inform you that after undergoing extensive reconstructive surgery, Evelyn’s face has been transformed. The shy girl who walked the halls of Parliament last year no longer needs to use a handkerchief to cover part of her face. Although Evelyn was always a beautiful person, she now feels beautiful.

Today, Evelyn is working hard to receive an education, which is something that she once was denied. Evelyn is also reaching out to other children who have been victimized by conflict, in an effort to support and empower them and to ensure that they know they are not alone.

I have learned many things from Evelyn. She has showed me that a person can find the power to fight even when they do not have access to the most basic resources. She has also demonstrated that one can triumph in the face of adversity.

Honourable senators, Evelyn is a strong, beautiful and intelligent woman whom I am fortunate to call my friend. Her story gives us all hope.

 

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