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Congratulations to the top 20 selected semi-finalists.

Updated: Aug 31, 2023



My Netball Journey as a refugee Girl in Uganda.

By :Nyanjok Aguto Deng

South Sudan


It all started when I joined high school. Everyone was excited that there was a tall girl who was going to succeed the other players who were finishing their respective levels : O'level and A'level. I was treated special and flattered and my biggest fear was whether I was capable of doing it to their expectations given the fact that I never played netball during my primary school.


We were taught about talents by my CRE teacher in senior one and every time I read this particular part about talents, my instinct kept questioning if netball is my true talent and if not then what is my talent?


I could train with the players and it was fun and refreshing. Then again I doubted my abilities and quitting was the only way I could escape the shame of losing the championship yet everyone believes in me.

I decided to leave the team but my teachers and students didn’t give up on me though they gave me space to think and return to the game. I gathered courage, joined training and everything was going on well but deep down the thought of losing haunted me.


There were these cultural beliefs that girls are not allowed to jump and scatter like it is done in netball which sometimes created fears in me; what if my tribe men see me jumping and diving for the ball in the air? What about if my parents are told about the indecent dressing in the game attires?

I convinced myself to pay deaf ears to any criticism from either relatives or tribe men and focused on the game.


The incredible happened when we won the district championship with me as the top scorer. After celebrating the win 🏆, there was yet another tournament left and so the training continued. I rebuked my old self for not having believed in me. It was clear to me that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step “. Regional games were about to commence and the vigour and zeal were activated to the peak. I was not shaken at all because I had built confidence, I was fully motivated. Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless. I told myself that we’re bringing the trophy home, my school had a series of wins before and we were a strong team after all. The game changed my attitude and I got hold of my temper and started ignoring some things that pissed me off often during the matches. The natives who could be against my team or just wanted to upset me could call me names, “Ottolio, Refugee, beggar, pole, Dinka... “to mention. These mistreatments became part of the game and I took them as my climbing ladders to victory.


On Sunday was the day for regional finals. The grand opening was overwhelming with government officials in attendance, it felt different. I wouldn’t tell if I was scared or confident in myself and the whole team. The whistles and ululations from the crowd were encouraging. The game started and it was tight with one on one scores. The commentary was quite entertaining. The game was rough and none would spare the other. My team was soft and considerate but our rivals were difficult. The cheers from our supporters reduced but one comment from the commentator gave me the strength I almost lost, “... And the GS of SMEGSS is making wonders, she is throwing in the ball with confidence and style... She tells you that she is no longer NYANJOK but NO JOKE... “ the commentator screamed. This sank deep into my soul, I became a lioness. Fear does not have any special power unless you empower it by submitting to it. We were always told that the last whistle determines the winner . After the last whistle, we emerged the winners (CHAMPIONS)


I was awarded a gold medal 🎖 as the top scorer of the tournament. This was like magic, a dream yet a reality. Netball became my favourite game and every time, I look back and smile because I made a legacy.


Whispers of Destiny: Navigating Responsibility and Purpose Amidst the Shadows of 2008

By Karuana Mwai

Kenya

It was an afternoon, and the sun bestowed its gentle warmth upon our gathering. It was a balance struck, not too scorching, not too mild - the kind that doctors would prescribe for newborns. The grass beneath us was an inviting shade of green, urging us to surrender to its embrace. I don’t think I have seen the grass in my homestead that green since climate change became a reality. But it wasn’t just the scenery that made the moment memorable- it was the cherished company of my loving parents, elder sister, my nephew at a mere seven months old, and my best friend, Audrey. The year was January 2008; the exact date eludes my memory, as does the day of the week. But this moment remains vividly etched in my mind, and not for reasons that inspire joy.

At that time, the country was embroiled in violence, though my understanding was limited as I was just twelve years old. News circulated and whispers flowed through my community, detailing attacks and the displacement of people because of “cheating” in election results. My parents reassured me that I was safe, and I believed them. After all, my understanding of violence was confined to schoolyard pinch.


Yet, suddenly, screams pierced the air in our small hometown and the community seemed to echo with chaos. Adults, gripped by fear, wielded weapons and surged towards town. A neighbor hurried by and urged my parents to join. Her words were simple, but spoke volume: “They are here.” With those words, my parents and elder sister departed. Scared, I asked, “What’s happening?” , but their response was terse: “Go to the big house, lock up, and care for your nephew!”


And so, Audrey and I locked ourselves in the house. Time slipped, seemingly elongated. We scuttled between the toilet and the shamba, seeking solace, but finding none. Amidst the tremors of fear and the town’s cries, Audrey began her menstrual cycle. Neither of us knew how to manage this, and we didn’t have pads. In that very moment, I was trapped between a sobbing infant strapped to my back and Audrey, her once-floral dress now soaked in red. It’s a scene that revists me at times- a haunting memory of uncertainty, innocence, and the weight of responsibility.


From this experience my purpose and destiny emerged - a passion to actualize sexual health and reproductive rights for every woman, irrespective of their circumstances. Conflict, climate change, or pandemics may arise, but women don’t cease menstruating, babies don’t cease being born, and human intimacy doesn't wane.


As a journalist, I’ve harnessed the media as a patent tool, weaving authentic narratives to illuminate the sexual health challenges women confront during societal trials. I’ve highlighted solutions and innovations that individuals devise. For example, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, while incomparable to conflict and displacement, I delved into a story showing how Telehealth Promoted Safe Maternal Care in Kenya. Despite curfews and distant hospital consultations, birthing did not stop, as did the need for children’s vaccinations. I probed how technology redefined this narrative, and I reported on it.


I also understand the potency of advocacy in creating change. This year, I collaborated with Tareto Africa, to develop “Trees for Girls” - an initiative, which empowers young girls with sexual health and reproductive rights education amid the climate change crisis. Climate change exacerbates period poverty, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and child marriage. Thus, it is essential to equip young girls with these vital skills.


Amidst any crisis, particularly conflict, prioritizing sexual and reproductive health is an imperative. It’s a fundamental human right. Women deserve the dignity of managing their menstruation, accessing family planning, and receiving contraceptives services promptly and in a friendly manner. They also have the right to give birth and nurture their young ones without fear or hindrance.


Looking back to 2008, my parents returned home around 4 pm. The source of commotion wasn't a result of election violence but mob justice for a murder. Nonetheless, a seed of apprehension was sown within me. Yet, within that fear, I discovered a seed of purpose. I resolved to make sexual health and reproductive rights a tangible reality for all - a commitment that continues to drive my journey.


From a marginalized refugee to a changemaker

By Naboth

DRC


My name is Naboth Kwilyame, and at the age of 21, I have already experienced a lifetime's worth of challenges and triumphs. Coming from the North Kivu region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), my family and I were forced to leave our home due to the relentless violence and insecurity that plagued our community. This essay recounts my personal journey, from fleeing my homeland to finding refuge in a Ugandan refugee camp called Nakivale. It explores the hardships I faced, the obstacles I overcame, and the transformation that has led me to become an aspiring entrepreneur with a vision to empower others.


The decision to leave everything behind and embark on a treacherous journey was not an easy one. But with the safety of my family at stake, we had no choice but to flee our beloved homeland. We traversed through dense bushes, slept hungry under the open sky, and braved unimaginable challenges until we reached the border of Uganda. There, we joined a group of fellow refugees who were also seeking sanctuary. It was in the Nakivale refugee camp, in 2012, that we found a glimmer of hope amidst the chaos. The camp offered us blankets, jerrycans, and plastic sheets to construct small shelters. Although life was still difficult, it was undeniably safer than the place we had left behind.


Life in the refugee camp was far from easy. We faced disease outbreaks, famine, and a language barrier that added to our struggles. As French speakers in an English-speaking environment, my siblings and I found it particularly challenging to communicate and integrate. Despite these obstacles, we were determined to adapt and thrive. We enrolled in a refugee school that provided English lessons, but I was disheartened when they placed me back in Primary 3, even though I had just completed my Senior 1 in Congo. Nevertheless, I refused to let setbacks define me. I persevered, studied diligently, and gradually made progress.


Just when I thought my educational journey was gaining momentum, financial constraints forced me to drop out of school. However, fate had other plans for me. I moved to Kampala to live with my brother, who had found a small job there. It was in this new city that I stumbled upon an opportunity that would change my life. I joined a refugee organization that offered entrepreneurship courses. The moment I delved into the world of entrepreneurship, I knew I had found my calling.


Inspired by my own experiences and the struggles faced by my community, I became driven to create meaningful change. Armed with the knowledge and skills gained from my entrepreneurship studies, I formulated a social business plan. My vision was to provide school fee loans to parents who struggled to afford their children's education due to inconsistent income. Additionally, I recognized the importance of empowering women with financial education and management skills. By combining these two initiatives, I aimed to uplift families and equip them with the tools needed for a brighter future.


I immersed myself in the process of prototyping my business idea. I conducted extensive research, engaged with the community, and sought guidance from mentors within the refugee organization. Step by step, my vision began to take shape. I refined my business model, identifying potential partners and exploring avenues for funding. The journey was not without its challenges, but my unwavering determination kept me focused on my goal.

My journey from a war-torn region in the DRC to becoming an aspiring entrepreneur has shaped my perspective and strengthened my resilience. I refuse to let my refugee status define me or limit my potential. Instead, I see it as a driving force to create positive change. My social business venture, focusing on school fee loans and empowering women, represents the culmination of my experiences and aspirations.


I firmly believe that through hope, determination, and the power of entrepreneurship, we can overcome even the greatest challenges. My journey is ongoing, and I am determined to secure the starting capital needed to launch my social business and make a lasting impact on the lives of others.


Embracing Hope in the Land of East Africa

By MULAYI CONRAD ABRAHAM

Uganda


In the heart of East Africa, amidst the stunning landscapes of Uganda, a young woman named Amina found solace and healing in the face of unimaginable challenges.


Amina’s journey began in a small village in war-torn Somalia. Escaping the clutches of violence and persecution, she, along with her family, sought refuge in neighboring Uganda. The journey was arduous, filled with fear and uncertainty, but they clung to hope, driven by the promise of a safer tomorrow.


As they crossed the border into Uganda, the beauty of the East African landscape greeted them with open arms. The rolling hills and lush greenery were a stark contrast to the scars of war they had left behind. It was as if nature itself embraced them, whispering words of comfort in the gentle rustle of leaves and the soft caress of the breeze.


Uganda became their sanctuary, a place where they could rebuild their lives and heal their wounded souls. The warm smiles of the Ugandan people, their unwavering hospitality, and the richness of their culture enveloped Amina’s family with a sense of belonging they had not felt in years.


In the refugee camp, Amina met a kind-hearted teacher named Maryam. Maryam had experienced similar hardships and had also found refuge in Uganda many years ago. She understood the emotional toll of displacement and dedicated herself to guiding the young souls like Amina through the maze of trauma.

Under Maryam’s gentle guidance, Amina began to explore her emotions, painting her pain, joy, and dreams on canvases. Each stroke of the brush became a release, a cathartic expression of her innermost feelings. The vibrant colors mirrored the beauty of the East African landscape, reminding her that life’s splendor could still be found even amidst adversity.


One evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon, Amina and Maryam sat by the shores of Lake Victoria, its vast expanse mirroring the endless possibilities that lay before them. Amina’s eyes sparkled with a newfound sense of hope, and she shared her dream of establishing a small school for refugee children. “Every child deserves a chance to learn, to heal, and to find beauty in this world,” Amina said with determination in her voice. “Just like how Uganda has embraced us, I want to create a place where refugee children can find peace, love, and education.”


Moved by Amina’s vision, Maryam pledged her unwavering support, and together, they began building the school in the heart of the refugee settlement. With the help of the local community, the school grew, and soon, children from different backgrounds found solace within its walls.

Through education, Amina instilled in her young students a sense of pride in their heritage and the beauty of East Africa. They danced to the rhythms of traditional music, shared stories under the starlit sky, and reveled in the splendor of Uganda’s diverse flora and fauna.


As the years passed, Amina’s dream expanded beyond the school. She founded an organization, “Hope’s Embrace,” dedicated to providing mental health support and educational opportunities to refugee communities across East Africa. The beauty of the landscape had inspired her to help others find beauty within themselves, too.


Word of “Hope’s Embrace” reached far and wide, and people from all walks of life came together to support Amina’s cause. Her journey, once defined by loss and pain, now became a beacon of hope for countless others, showing them that amidst the trials of life, beauty could still be found, and dreams could be realized.


In the land of Uganda, Amina found not only refuge but also purpose. The beauty of East Africa had become the canvas on which she painted her resilience and hope, and in turn, she had woven a tapestry of compassion, love, and unity for all those she touched. In her embrace, the heart of East Africa found the courage to heal and thrive once more.


EPITOME OF HOPE

By Yar Malel Alam

South Sudan


“Boom!Boom!”Those gunshots brought my brother running into the homestead like a mad man. He immediately grabbed me and my younger siblings, thrusting us into mother’s hands. He gathered a few clothes and managed to stuff some foodstuffs into mother’s basket. He then mumbled something into mother’s ears that made her pull us after her without thinking. On coming out of our homestead, other families were gathering their belongings too and scattering in every direction possible. At my age , I couldn’t figure out what was happening, only that our lives were in danger. The army troops were flooding in fast with only dust telling their distance.


I reminiscence these memories as I look at my students. They stare at me eagerly as they wait for the next episode of how I came to find salvation in the refugee camp. These young minds have no clue of what happened to their country as most of them were born in the refugee camp or came to the camp to seek education after our country South Sudan gained independence. My experiences that I share with them from time to time give them a glimpse of how the old days were. Before I can continue with my narration , the bell rings signifying the end of the period. The pupils sulk and make grunts as their favourite part of the story has been cut short. Their reaction always baffles me as I have narrated to them my life experience not once or twice but three times. Today was the fourth time yet the attention and keenness that they listen to gives one the impression that it’s their first time to hear such a tale.


To me though it’s a different path that my story takes me. Each time I narrate my story, I get to relive the scenes of dead bodies that I saw , the agony of leaving the home I had known for half my life, the deafening sound of gunshots and grenades going off and the emptiness I felt when my younger brother succumbed to hunger and the wounds we gathered along the way. Every time I relive that moment, I am reminded of how human life is worthless and can be lost by just the firing of a bullet . It’s these memories of my home that kept me going during my high school days when the future was bleak. I would replay the scene in my mind and remind myself that only through education would I rewrite the wrongs that had happened in my country.


“Do you all know the reception centre?”I ask my standard four pupils this question as some of them nod their heads while others are looking at me in amazement. I then go on to tell them how the UN troops rescued the survivors of the war at the border. At this point , most of us were famished from the days of hunger that we had undergone. Rags are what remains of our clothes . Some of us were covered in blood, some had lost limbs and others were bleeding from gunshot wounds. It is with hope that we boarded the UN vehicles hoping for a better tomorrow. I looked back at my country and wondered whether I would be back in the years to come.


The bell goes yet again but my pupils this time are satisfied for they know the rest of my story. The remaining part is of how I joined primary school , completed and got a scholarship to Turkana Girls National School. Upton then I have been an assistant teacher at a local secondary school nearby and I volunteered at my primary school where I narrate my story to my pupils. My background and how I came to the camp is a memory that always lingers in my brain. It is the backbone of my existence and the little achievements I have made so far and it is this same story that keeps me on track. Without it I am without purpose . My story inspires me to get up every time things don’t work out for me . It reminds me that hope and salvation awaits when we go back to our country.


A better society is what we need. I keep this slogan alive by reminding my students and pupils everyday of where they belong. Giving hope to these young minds that anything can be achieved provided one doesn’t limit their own ability. For some time I have been attending seminars that have increased my knowledge and insight about what our future deserves. Being a role model to the upcoming generation is one way of evicting the injustice and corruption that runs deep in our nations. I tell my fellow brothers and sisters that there are many educational opportunities before us that will help us achieve what is needed for a better tomorrow for our country. Despite the title “refugee” we shouldn’t limit ourselves to what lies ahead of us. It’s just a temporary title that no one chose willingly but brought about the circumstances that we can set right.


Our stories as refugees are what define us . We shouldn’t be intimidated by what we are for without them we are nothing. Our stories will rewrite a better tomorrow .


No one wants to know the weight of the plane,

By; Theresa Nyalony Gatwang

South Sudan

The plane arrives. It has come to evacuate citizens. This is where another war between the victims starts. Because none of them wants to know the weight of the plane. Nobody wants to hear about the weight of their luggage. Those who believe in ancestors know that the ancestors have answered their prayers and brought the plane. The religious ones know that it is their God almighty who has saved them.


When the plane takes off, many are left behind. Hundreds of villagers gather and take the space the few have vacated. People are like grains of millet. Those left behind think the pilot callous. They start to push and pull and pull and push at each other.


People on the plane keep quiet as they watch thick smoke rise over villages and fill the sky. The buildings they have escaped are still burning down. A tear drop rolls down Nyalony’s left eye as she thinks about her home, now in flames. The home where she grew up. The only home she ever knew. She would look through the window every now and then. She would see the raising smoke merging into clouds. She would let more tears wash her pain as she joined in the trek of the clouds. She too had become a cloud. Roaming skies.

She kept imagining a home without her beloved mother to guide her. She remembered everything her mother had told her during the time they were together in the bushes. Her mother was so weak. She could hardly move. A few days later she passed away. Just like that.


It was extremely difficult for Nyalony to move on but she did. Her heart swung in her chest. Her intestines danced in her tummy. She was on her own. Her mother was no more. She was walking into a future she had no clue about.

As the plane sored in the sky, memories of her mother kept replaying in her mind. Even when they arrived, she was not aware they had landed. The 14-year old girl stepped out of the plane and onto new land. Immediately, she recognized she looked different from the people she found. She was about five-feet tall, dark-skinned, and very skinny. Other people at the airport were plump and light-skinned. They were well-dressed. They were happy.

On the runway, people hugged each other. Others were singing while others were crying tears of joy at seeing their loved ones. Nobody stepped forward to hug or receive her. She hobbled forward avoiding eye-contact with the happy people. As she walked, she saw white men holding a white paper saying: REFUGEES. From her little primary six English, she could read the word. She knew that the white men were looking for her and the people she had come with. She then summoned those near her, “This way please.” They followed her.

The white men took them to a blue pickup track which drove them to a rather less vegetated area compared to where they had landed. They stopped at what everybody was referring to as The Camp. The compound was littered with white tents with the blue writing UNHCR or UN. The tents stretched from one end to the other. People emerged from the white tents not in ones or twos but in tens. The tents carried more people than had been left by the aircraft. The compound too was full of people. There was hardly any free space. A few of the women from the tents stepped forward. They served all the new arrivals with yellow posho and beans.


“Eat,” They said to Nyalony. “Tomorrow it might not be there.”

Four white men spread files and papers on a table in front of the tent. They were writing the names of the new arrivals, their age and asking them if they had come with family members. Families were allowed to stay together. A few people had indeed travelled together as family, but most of them, especially women, were on their own.

A few days later, another truck came with clothes and more white tents similar to those already at the camp. A man standing at the truck started calling the new arrivals one by one and handing them a few clothes and tents. He was reading names off the list that they had just made.


“Nyalony.” It was her turn. “Please come over and receive your things.” She was given only one dress. She remained standing waiting for more.

“Make way for others please,” the man distributing said to her as he read the next person. “But I have no tent,” she stammered. “Tents are for families. Tonight you will sleep at the reception. In the morning we shall check which tents are sharable and have space so that you are relocated. When she got to reception, she found other people young and old.

“They have sent you here,” they said to her.

“Yes,” she responded. “Until tomorrow when space will be found for me in sharable tent.”

“You are welcome,” they said. “We have been here for days. Waiting for space.”

They cleared a small corner for her in the reception tent. People were almost piled on top of each other.

Nyalony twisted to fit into the small space between two massive women. A new life had begun for her. Just like that.

"YAHOO BOYS" AND THE REST OF US

By Prince Udensi

Uganda


Stepping out for relaxation and a chilled cup of beer has more or less become traditional in a world where trouble and hustling never ends. Personally, I feel sorry for lads who don't drink beer. It's right dosage makes the world seem a happy and perfect place for a while. But these days, those relaxations has every tendency to turn awkward.


The other day as I joined friends in relaxation at one of the popular joints in Kampala, I met an old friend. Jukwaese (Not real name) was my primary school classmate and we maintained a close relationship after our elementary education. For sure, he couldn't spell five letter words with ease. Teachers and classmates constantly made mockery of Jukwaese's academic laxity and poor character. At home, whenever our parents scold us for wrong doing, they will not hesitate to warn us not to be like the spoilt and dull Jukwaese. That was as teenagers by the way, for some time now Jukwaese went aloof. Not until I saw him the other day at a birthday party of our mutual friend. But in a different setting. Jukwaese staged a show for us, and we watched with premium tears.


The orders kept coming, chickens in droves, wine in place of beer, Jukweese doled out cash to whoever that cares for some. His name sang like DAVIDO's latest collabo. From one table to the other, Jukwaese's breeze blew in a very intimidating manner for other young lads.


What could be the job of someone who would spend 80k at a go, in just one outing?. Myself and Chidera pondered. Some of us whom have dedicated enormous human and capital resources towards self improvement including several sleepless nights still struggle to get things we want. Yes, we are able to take care of our basic/immediate needs, but my mother would not hesitate to remind me of how much she labored to groom me single handedly since 2008, after the demise of Engr. John Udensi,- my late father.


These guys are intimidating us into seeing ourselves as trash and unserious, Jukwaese has suddenly become the beautiful bride that everyone wants to associate with. But is he more of a hardworking & resourceful young man than the rest of us?.


To say we are not jealous is sheer pretense, we are under tremendous pressure to assist those whom have always been there for me. Those who have sacrificed alot for us. And those who look up-to us.


Jukwaese has made a huge statement. Is it not normal that we follow suit?. After all, in Zlatan Ibile's voice; "Who no like better thing"?.


But this is just one amongst the many pressures that comes with societal ills, Jukwaese is said to have involved in "Yahoo Yahoo" a codename for internet fraud which is often backed by fettish acts to get quick riches, other hard working young men are now doubting themselves, some depressed, it takes only strong will and self confidence to navigate peer pressure and societal ills, especially when the society now celebrates crooked result and illicit wealth. Through Jukwaese I felt it, and it only took tremendous self discipline and fear of God to overcome it's accompanying psychological effect.


C u r s e d i s w a r

By: Tasneem Alhaj

Sudan

The 15th of April 2023 was the day that turned my life upside down. Before that I used to have a normal nice life, I was about to graduate from medical school and go ahead with my dream plan. Then, all of a sudden A fighting erupted between the army and rapid support forces, they raged a full-scale war in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and many other regions in the country.


Since 2019 Sudan has been witnessing a tumultuous political and security situation; from the popular uprising that toppled the long-term dictator Omar al basher fast forward to the sit-in massacre, we have endured a much pain in these past years, but despite that, no one really expected things would get into this point, point of no return, this war took us off guard.


At first we thought it was just another round of violence and would quickly be contained but now we are going into the fourth month and unfortunately there’s no sign of abating in fighting. In fact it is only getting worse by the day.


I have always watched refugee stories on TV and even interacted with those who came to Sudan, listening to their horrific accounts and suffering, but I never really understood what being a refugee is feeling like until I became one myself.


It wasn’t an easy decision to make to leave your home and memories behind or collect whatever you could take of them in under 30 minutes of time, Our last moments there in Khartoum were terrifying, I can’t forget waking up to the sound of artillery fire and running from room to room in search for a relative safe refuge.


For the first two months of this war, we did our best to hold on and stay in our house amidst a very bleak situation of rolling power outages that last for days and closure of all nearby grocery shops, but with the intensifying in the fighting and as it got closer to the door, we left with no other option but to leave fearing for our lives.

Unfortunately, things didn’t stop there as armed robbery, rape and abduction of young girls rampant through Khartoum, life there has become unbearable and we just have to leave as soon as possible.


I remember vividly our mixed emotions and the tears that filled our eyes when we boarded the bus heading out of Khartoum, with many questions in our head not knowing when and how we will be able to go back home again And whether our home will be there by then, Unanswered Questions, but this is how displacement is.

On our way, I was shocked to see the true scale of the war firsthand as Khartoum started to look like a ghost town with damaged infrastructures and rotten corpses scattered throughout city streets.


Now, I am an internally displaced person with an uncertain future and shattered dreams but at least I have that sense of belonging, which is something many of the Sudanese who have fled to the border lack for.


I won’t deny that until now I can’t come to terms with what has happened and I am trying my best to recover from the trauma, as i still can’t stand the loud sound and most of the time I doubt if that is real or a nightmare I have to wake from, the atrocities we have witnessed are just way beyond imagination.


But at the end, I have to reconcile with that and to move on with my life and reset my goals, as it’s known "time can heal all scars"


And now after what I know and personally experience of the hardships of the war, the one big lesson I have learned is not to take peace for granted and to deeply appreciate it.

and from this perspective, I feel the urge to start an activism work to denounce war in all its forms and to dedicate myself to the cause of spreading peace and ending the war from all over the world.

May peace and security become our new normal in the coming times .


Rebuilding Hope Amidst Chaos: My Journey as a Refugee

By Long Maker Long Deng

South Sudan


The upheaval of the South Sudan civil war in December 2013 propelled me into an arduous journey that transformed my life. As a refugee, I have experienced firsthand the psychological toll that displacement inflicts, a narrative that echoes the stories of countless individuals caught in the worst refugee crisis of our time. This crisis has left an indelible mark on my mental well-being, but it has also fueled my determination to effect positive change and build a society that diverges from the tumultuous reality I have known.

For me, the weight of being a refugee became palpable during those harrowing days in Jonglei State. The relentless sounds of gunfire and the constant threat to life forced me to flee, seeking refuge in my hometown of Duk Padiet. Here, the cycle of conflict persisted, subjecting my family and me to further turmoil. The trauma I endured during these years, compounded by the loss of loved ones and the uncertainty of their fates, left an enduring scar on my psyche. Alongside my stepmother and siblings, we embarked on a perilous journey to Kakuma in January 2014, seeking safety and solace amidst the chaos. Nightmares of gunshots and memories of desperation haunted my nights, reminding me of the fragility of life and the fragility of our circumstances.

Yet, within this turmoil, I found a glimmer of hope that propelled me to action. Recognizing that I was not alone in my struggle, I established the Golden Factory F.C. in Kakuma, a football club that became a haven for young refugees like myself. This initiative provided us with a channel to channel our emotions, to heal through camaraderie, and to find a sense of normalcy amid the chaos. Through Golden Factory F.C., I discovered the power of community, of harnessing our shared experiences to build resilience and inspire one another.

This experience ignited a determination to create a society different from the one I had known—a society defined by unity, education, and innovation. I channeled my energies into education, completing high school and assuming the role of a teacher at Kakuma Refugee Secondary School. The classroom became a space where I could nurture minds, impart knowledge, and foster a sense of empowerment. However, the opportunity that would genuinely catalyze my mission arrived when I was granted a MasterCard Foundation scholarship to the African Leadership University (ALU).

At ALU, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, a pathway that aligns with my mission to effect transformation through technology. My project, the MedLog app, stands as a testament to this commitment. In a world scarred by medical inadequacies, especially within refugee camps, MedLog aims to revolutionize healthcare by maintaining comprehensive medical records for patients in public hospitals and clinics. By addressing medical errors and enhancing patient care, I envision a future where technology bridges the gap between despair and healing.

As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of the resilience that defines the human spirit, even in the face of unspeakable adversity. My personal experiences as a refugee have ingrained within me a profound understanding of the psychological toll that displacement exacts. This understanding fuels my determination to cultivate positive change, not only in my life but in the lives of those who share my journey. I stand as a testament to the fact that adversity need not define us; instead, it can become the catalyst for resilience, innovation, and lasting transformation.

In conclusion, the refugee crisis has left an indelible mark on my mental well-being, instilling in me an unwavering determination to build a society rooted in unity, education, and technology. Through initiatives like the Golden Factory F.C. and the MedLog app, I am working tirelessly to rewrite the narrative, to offer hope and healing to those who, like me, have known the chaos of displacement. As a refugee, I stand poised to make a lasting impact—a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of determination.


THE AGONIZING SILENT OUTCRY.

BY: YVONNE GITHINJI

Kenya


The feeling of being hit by a truck but on repeat is how I can describe the experience. Only this time it was in slow motion as each hour sluggishly went by. The political unrest in the country was causing havoc and wreck in our lives and so fast that no one was given time to ponder the next move. It was the election period and needlessly to say, everyone had their person in mind. The political leaders took to the street with each bashing the members of opposing team and inciting the massive supporters out on the streets-mostly fanatics. Heat slowly started accumulating, threats carelessly uttered, debates among groups escalated every member wanting to show prowess in knowledge of why their presidential duo was the best and hence there was a clear demarcation among the people. As the wise man once said: ‘Divided we fall’. The streets were filled with posters either on the ground, loosely hanged on trees or glued tightly on walls. The incitement led to push and pull and a hall of hatred was stamped among the people depending on whom you were siding with.


The volcano finally erupted when the day of results came and the people regardless of religion, neighborhood, friendship began clamoring at each other. Houses started going up in flames, granaries worth of a one-year stock of food burnt to the ground and cattle stolen. No one was safe and you could not trust anyone. We had to run away when this started with the guidance of my mother and as instructed with only lesos to tuck away the twins. There was not really a sense of direction and we blindly ran towards the direction of the church using the foresty path to avoid meeting men with crowbars.in sight of the church, and there was a loud blast when it went in flames and we heard screams, cries of the people who had hidden there as they called for help. I stood transfixed as my heart pumped at my ears, tears rolling down. I felt my mom pushing me and we had to quickly go back to avoid the risk of same fate befalling us. It was getting dark and we decided to take cover inside the forest as awaited instruction from my dad who was sending us information. We needed to get by the harbor to board a boat and be smuggled out of the country. Watching news on social media was depressing, seeing bloodshed, heads detached and bodies lying lifelessly. We each held one of the twins close because of the cold to garner heat and kept ears to the ground in case of any movement. Wails, marching of troops, gunshots and smoke filled the air. When the noises moved further, we stealthily and hurriedly took the route towards the harbor and met: Blackman whom we had been sent to. He quickly took us to an already filling boat and we squeezed ourselves. The insufferable journey started with wind blowing harshly as if it was angry at us. Children yelled and men argued about how we are all stupid for fighting yet the leaders were comfortably seated. The minutes turned to hours and the trip was unbearable. The overflowing capacity made the boat tilt to one side and with each wave, I waited for the inevitable-sinking with no life-jackets and no swimming capacity. My small sister’s eyes innocently looked up and that tore me apart. My attention was arrested by a voice blasting on speakers and I got scared thinking they caught on. However, it was the rescue team on a big ship that I hadn’t seen due to the multitude of people. We were happy to board, be fed and taken to safety. Registration was done, screened for diseases and taken to a camp-our new home.


Life has never been same. Scars cut too deep. Over the years, in partnership with an NGO, we have created a shelter for refugees and victims of domestic violence. Counselling is done and support groups created to ensure sanity is restored. I am a peace advocate who counsels people on importance of it and sharing the stories of past as referen


Through Adversity to the Stars.

BY Sudi Omar Noor

From Somalia

The future seemed bleaker for me and a large number of others who had now been left in this world with minimal hope to hang onto. I acknowledge that life had to be redefined and I had to carry the badge of a refugee, a title that came with immense challenges especially being in a foreign country. I found myself plummeting into the abyss without a helping hand. Living as a refugee is a life filled with horror and terrified situations. The life of a refugee, spanning nearly three-quarters of my existence, has been a relentless battle. Escaping the instability of Somalia, my family and I sought refuge in the Dadaab camp in Kenya when I was just nine years old, only to be uprooted once again due to escalating insecurity in 2012. Our presence in the camp turned us into a source of income for opportunistic relatives, amplifying the hardships faced by my single mother raising eight kids.

My mother, faithful in her determination to shield us from early marriages, knew the agony of such a fate in first-hand. Her dream was to secure a brighter, more promising future for her children. Yet, the apparition of violence emerged over our lives, as three young girls from our neighbourhood fell victim to rape within our first three months in the camp. My mother transformed into a nocturnal sentinel, sleeplessly guarding us against the darkness that surrounded us.

Her endeavour to educate us was met with condemnation and barriers – language, and a lack of support all conspired against her. Despite the odds, we were fortunate enough to secure enrolment in an elementary school after a year of perseverance. The year 2012 brought new trials. One evening, upon returning home from school, we were greeted by guests whose intentions shattered the fragile dreams we held. They sought to marry off my 14-year-old sister to a much older suitor, asserting that her only role was to bear children. In an instant, the vision of higher education and empowerment we held crumbled to dust.

This unpleasant experience, along with the relentless hardships we faced, cast shadows of depression over my family. It was a period of uncertainty, where we stood at a crossroads without knowing where to turn. However, a wavering light of hope emerged through the words of a friend whose own daughter had suffered a similar fate. Her advice ignited a daring plan – to flee to Kakuma, refugee camp where perhaps we could find the haven we so desperately sought.

Arriving in Kakuma 2012, we were strangers in a foreign land, depleted of possessions but propelled by hope. Assistance awaited us, guiding us to a reception centre where new arrivals were offered temporary refuge. This chapter brought its own challenges, from sharing tents with strangers who spoke unfamiliar languages to enduring stolen belongings and gruesome queues for meals under the relentless sun.

Yet, emerging from this crucible of adversity, we found a particle of stability and shelter through the UNHCR. Our relentless pursuit of education against all odds eventually culminated in my journey towards a Bachelor's Degree in Trauma and Crisis Management. My path was laden with obstacles - as a young woman, I confronted limitations, discrimination, and bouts of depression that often threatened to engulf me.

But from these depths of despair I gleaned profound lesson from the unwavering strength of my mother, this lesson has become the cornerstone of my advocacy, inspiring me to empower others to harness their own strength, to rise above adversity. I emerged with a renewed sense of purpose. I founded a women-led organization with a resolute mission: to alleviate the struggles faced by school-going refugee girls and usher change into their lives. I have found purpose, my journey from a fragile refugee girl to a woman advocating for change exemplifies the transformative power of resilience

Through my organization, I strive to redefine societal norms and build a future that embraces education, empowerment, and mental well-being. It is a society that diverges from the one I knew – a place where girls are not stripped of their dreams, where education is the key to transformation, and where the scars of trauma can be transformed into sources of strength


Fractured Bonds

By Mamuch Bey

South Sudan


Life's twists often reveal unanticipated harsh truths, wrenching away our most cherished aspirations. In the tapestry of my existence, I'm Mamuch Bey, and here, I unfold my story.


As a child, the warmth of unity and peace enveloped my world. Family was our rock, an unbreakable bond that held us together. My father, a noble figure, made a fateful decision cutting short our UN immigration plans in Kakuma when I was just 6 months old. He believed Africa held the promise of a better life for us, leading us to Nairobi. Mornings were a chorus of birds, Sundays' comforting rituals, and Mondays marked by school buses. Happiness filled our home, every corner painted with simple joys.


But the currents of life shifted, shadowing over our once-idyllic existence. My father lost his job due to the turmoil in Khartoum and tribal divides. His dreams crumbled, forcing us to retreat to Kakuma amidst the chaos. The year 2010 marked a turning point, one that plunged us into an uncertain future.


My mother, courageous, journeyed to Juba in 2013 to shield our family from the storm. Forsaking us to indifferent hands. And months later, the distant echoes of gunfire in Juba bore witness to an upcoming devastation.


My Mother disappeared, my cousins and uncles, once pillars of support, were buried by the tides of tragedy. My father, once strong, stood as a wounded soldier, bearing scars of a war that had infiltrated our lives.


Days turned into a sea of shattered fragments. In the midst of this suffocating darkness, hope glimmered. The news of our parents' safety reached us, like a fragile lifeline. They sought refuge under the banner of the United Nations Missions in South Sudan. Yet, uncertainty loomed, glooming over our tentative relief.


Our bittersweet reunion revealed the harsh reality exacted by war. Our parents, now strangers, transformed by the crucible of conflict, were mere shadows of their former selves. The unspoken wounds across their hearts reshaped them. My father, once my hero, now a fractured soul, haunted by memories he could not share. My mother, persistent, carried scars, a will to her determination. After reuniting with an aunt, she saw fit to move us from Kakuma seeking solace under her roof.


But fate, a cruel mistress, unraveled our fragile plans. Our sanctuary crumbled as swiftly as it had materialized as our aunt's embrace turned cold, kicking us out back into uncertainty. My mother fought valiantly against this misfortune, even renting a home for us, only to have ourselves locked out once again.


Homelessness became our unwelcome companion, and education an elusive dream as desperation crept in. Though having not experienced the horrors of war, its impact echoed through our lives. My siblings scattered, carried away by well-meaning yet selective relatives seeking to shelter them. Left with my younger siblings, I returned to Kakuma, torn between my academic aspirations and the weight of responsibility.


Stability emerged as my father returned, casting a fragile light upon our stormy journey. Amidst this calm, I grasped a crucial lesson: life's currents are beyond our control, shifting as unpredictable as the wind. Determined to mend our shattered family, I embarked on a journey of empowerment, channeling my efforts into community projects and entrepreneurial ventures.


Now at 20 years old, I created The Flare Project. As an attestation to my experience, it emerged to rekindle the flames of lost dreams within disheartened youth, providing them a pathway to reclaim their aspirations. Grounded in the promise of enduring opportunities, it sought to heal family bonds and raise awareness on mental well-being.


Armed with newfound purpose, I navigated business pursuits, each struggle weighed with broken family's dreams. As I persevered to mend our shattered world, I understood that: adversity might reshape our paths, but not our spirit. The war pitched us into darkness, but failed to douse the flames of enduring hope.


Transformed by adversity, my gaze fixed on the horizon, reminded that life's strained from joy and sorrow. This is not the end of my story; but the beginning of a journey defined by resilience. The fractures that once threatened to shatter our family are now the lines that connect us, a manifestation to our inner strength.


EMBRACING MY REFLECTION: A JOURNEY OF HEALING AND SELF LOVE


BY MERVEILLE KASANGANDJO

DRC

As I sit here reflecting on my past, I am overcome by a flood of memories—moments filled with laughter and love that shaped me as a young girl. The vibrant melodies of my childhood still resonate deep within my heart. However, in 2017, my journey took an abrupt turn when war tore my family apart, forcing us to flee our home country, DRC. Leaving everything behind marked the beginning of a dark chapter in my life, one filled with depression. Upon arriving at our new location, a whirlwind of emotions engulfed me. Everything before my eyes was unfamiliar. Gone were the familiar streets, the comforting voices Of loved ones, and the sense of belonging. They were swiftly replaced by uncertainty and fear. Apart from my siblings, I knew no one, the culture and language were very different from what I was used to. Though young, I realized that nothing would ever be the same for us. The uncertainty surrounding our future and the constant fear for our personal safety created an atmosphere thick with anxiety and stress.


As school commenced, I found myself facing immense challenges. I became the girl wearing a worn-out uniform, carrying my collection of books in a plastic bag. I still vividly recall the bullying and cruelty I endured from my classmates on that very first day. They relentlessly mocked my clothes, my accent, and my skin. I felt utterly alone and lost an outcast in a sea of unfamiliar faces. No one seemed willing to associate with me. I began questioning my identity, believing that something must be inherently wrong with me. Countless nights were spent with tears streaming down my face, my despair threatening to consume me. Despite my inner trouble, I refused to abandon my studies; I was determined to become fluent in English.


Then, one day during lunchtime, while my peers filled the cafeteria, I found myself alone in the library, engrossed in a novel. It was there that I encountered a compassionate and observant teacher who sensed my distress. Curious as to why I remained secluded, she approached me with genuine concern. I felt an instant connection with her warmth and decided to confide in her about the relentless bullying I endured. Pouring my heart out, I shared every painful detail. To my surprise, she listened attentively, offering a glimmer of hope in the darkness. She suggested I explore the concept of self-love. Initially, the notion of self-love eluded me. What did it truly mean? The teacher patiently explained that it involved treating myself with kindness, respect, and compassion. She urged me to stand before the mirror each morning and affirm aloud, "I am beautiful. I am strong. I am worthy of love." Doubts clouded my thoughts, but I resolved to give it a chance. The following morning, before setting foot in school, I gazed into the mirror and uttered those empowering words. At first, it felt peculiar, almost comical, but as the days turned into weeks, something shifted within me. Gradually, I began to believe those affirmations. With each practice of self-love, my confidence blossomed. No longer did I perceive myself as a victim; instead, I embraced my strength and resilience. I learned to advocate for myself, setting clear boundaries with those who had tormented me. Over time, the bullying subsided, and I discovered genuine friendships with individuals who appreciated me for who I truly am. Through this arduous journey, I realized that self-love held the key to my happiness. I no longer sought validation from others to feel good about myself.


In the end, my experiences taught me an invaluable lesson: my past does not define my potential. Despite the hardships I faced, I am capable of achieving great things. Determined to be a catalyst for change, I became an advocate within my school and community. Initiating a support group for fellow refugee students and actively participating in student-led anti-bullying campaigns, I dedicated myself to fostering inclusive and compassionate environments. Now, having completed high school, I have established a social media

platform where I provide support and raise awareness about the impact of mental health in our society. Through sharing my story and advocating for empathy and understanding, I aspire to inspire others to join this cause,

Together, we can be the agents of change.


Resilience Forged: A Decade's Odyssey from Darkness to Empowerment”


Latjor Wuon Lat Dak

South Sudan


The chronicle of my life's darkest phase began at the stroke of midnight on December 15, 2013—a night etched into memory as a relentless tempest swept through the South Sudanese capital of Juba.


What ignited as political discord between the President and Vice President quickly erupted into an overwhelming clash, leaving our land cast in darkness. The fiery rivals clashed as quickly as the blink of an eye and cast darkness over our land.

Despite efforts by loyal soldiers to restore order and defuse the situation, the violence spiralled beyond control, engulfing the city in an inferno of conflict. loyal soldiers tried to patrol to defuse the situation, but the city turned into a battlefield, claiming the lives of 200,000 souls, and among them were my cherished family members.

My surviving family and I fled the horror that had unfolded before our eyes—a landscape marred by pain and suffering. As we left our homes, possessions, and loved ones behind, their blood-soaked memories haunted our hearts, and their blood filled our eyes and hearts with fearless sadness.


we were compelled to an agonising choice: to join our lost kin in death or bear the relentless ache of their absence. From age 16 to my current 26, grief became my unwavering companion. With heavy hearts full of grief, we wandered the wilderness seeking for safety and navigating uncertainty while being pursued by invisible enemies.

We joined the ranks of survivors and became part of the community known as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), seeking refuge from the chaos that had shattered our lives and forced us to be refugees within our own Motherland!

Through the efforts of UNMISS and global organisations, we found respite in an overcrowded IDP camp—a fleeting shelter in the tempest. The camp offered little more than a place to rest with nothing to be eaten or drink while diseases ran rampant but we had no choice - that is our new reality.


In the midst of the camp, our lives were claimed daily by those who surrounded the camp, driven by hatred —a puppet to their leaders. Victory for them was the suffering of innocents and victories over the defenceless civilians.

Three arduous years ensued, the life in the IDP camp was a daily struggle for survival. I have seen friends and families who succumb to diseases and Hunger gnaw at our stomachs like a constant companion.


Grass, mushrooms, and whatever could ease hunger were consumed, and threats from armed groups and unknown gunmen were an ever-present reality because we had to come out of the camp to find something to eat but on the way the enemy killed us. humanitarian aid offered insufficient and unpredictable food but I stood strong alongside my remaining family.


In 2017, a glimpse of hope emerged as thousands of South Sudanese refugees, including my family, found refuge in Uganda. The era of senseless killings drew to a close but was replaced by the struggle to ease hunger. I engaged in educational and training programs in the Camp, discovering latent talents and acquiring new skills.

Bolstered by resilience and the support of IDP & refugee programs, I was awarded a Mastercard Foundation Scholarship at the African Leadership University (ALU) in Rwanda. Within the ALU community, I empowered myself to empower the IDPs and refugee cohorts I left behind.


In Merely three months on the ALU-Rwanda campus, I founded the South Sudan Youth Leadership Scholars Network Program (SSYLNET)—a youth-led nonprofit organisation striving to empower and uplift South Sudan's youth to transform the new horizon. Our mission encompasses transformative opportunities, encompassing scholarships, fellowships, social entrepreneurship, leadership development programs, and mentorship.

My story evolved from one of despair to one of empowerment, a testament to humanity's resilience. My journey as an IDP and refugee cast me as a beacon of hope, not only for myself but for the community left behind. Scars of the past now lay the foundation for a future where South Sudan's youth rise from ashes, uniting to shape their destinies.

From suffering's crucible, a purpose emerged—a purpose that propels me to illuminate a brighter tomorrow. As I learn, grow, and lead, I stand as living proof that the human spirit endures the harshest trials, emerging stronger, wiser, and poised to ignite change. This journey, a decade from depths of despair to heights of empowerment, stands as a testament to the unbreakable spirit within the human h


A Journey of Resilience From War Refugee to Hopeful Future

By Mabor William Deng

South SUdan


Becoming a refugee was never a choice I made. I didn’t know of the existence of refugee camps nor the struggles faced by displaced individuals around the world. However, fate had other plans for me. Through it all, I’ve found solace in the power of education and the unwavering hope for peace. This is my story.


My home country, South Sudan, achieved independence on 9 July 2011, becoming the world's youngest nation. However, a year later, the South Sudan Civil War erupted, tearing my country apart. On Christmas Eve, a time normally meant for celebration, the conflict spread to my family’s home, Yei-River County, forever changing our lives. That fateful night, fear and confusion gripped us as the sound of gunfire echoed through the air. Our home, located adjacent to the army station, became ground zero for the war. We huddled together on the bare floor, avoiding the blind and merciless bullets. The deafening noise drowned out even the frogs' croaking, and I trembled with fear, unable to find peace of mind. That night, my father and elder brother ventured into the bush as rebel soldiers, their safety uncertain.

Early the following morning, we fled to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan station, seeking refuge. For three long months, we resided there, consumed by the monotony of survival—eating, sleeping, and waking up to face another day. Education took a backseat, as there were no schools within the UN center. As my family's financial stability waned, we made the difficult decision to relocate to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where we were registered as war refugees for the first time.


The camp welcomed us with open arms, offering an atmosphere of peace that eluded our war-stricken homeland. With renewed determination, I resumed my education, attending school within the camp’s boundaries. However, our newfound stability was short-lived, as news of my father's death reached us. He had fallen in battle while fighting government troops on the front lines. I was struck with disbelief, unable to comprehend the reality of losing my father who meant everything to me. For months, I was consumed by distress and my academic performance suffered as a result. Nevertheless, I gradually adopted a growth mindset, realizing that dwelling on the past wouldn't change anything. I resolved to work harder and smarter academically. Without a lantern or lamp, I studied diligently under the streetlights preparing for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations. My hard work paid off when I broke the previous year's academic record at my primary school, becoming the top student.


Determined not to be defined by my refugee status, I channeled my energy towards achieving greatness. Four years of relentless effort culminated in me topping my high school, breaking another academic record. After high school, I volunteered as a teacher at Greenlight Secondary School and co-led the 'Tablet for Revision Program' at a community-based organization called Advocacy Initiative for Youth Development. My role involved assisting students with mathematics. Not only was I a teacher to my students, but also a trusted mentor and brother who wholeheartedly embraced any opportunity to support them. My dedication to education became a beacon of hope for my students and peers as well.


Most importantly, I have recently won the competitive WUSC sponsorship, a program that helps high-achieving refugee students resettle and acquire undergraduate education in Canada. This experience has made me realize that indeed, hard work pays; it’s always rewarded. I’ve made my mother, family members, friends, and teachers proud.

Over the years, Kakuma Refugee Camp became more than a temporary shelter to me. It was where I discovered my resilience, the importance of peace, and the transformative power of education. Education stands as the pivotal turning point in my life, granting me the ability to

improve my conditions. My mother once said, "Only through education can you achieve greatness," which continues to resonate deeply within me. Despite the hardships I faced, I persevered, embracing the hope that one day I would transcend my circumstances. With education, I am determined to make a difference, to rise above the label of a refugee, and to create a better world for myself, my family, and others in need.



A STRUGGLE OF A BLACK CHILD

By Abuoch Akot

South SUdan


I learned to run from one safe place to another to break loose death at ten years old. It was either destiny or escape it, learn to hold and own a gun if not, you would be lifeless on the motherland soil.


As a young girl in the rustic far north of South Sudan, I was intoxicated with the melange of horrible experiences that unfolded before my innocent eyes. Being born and raised in the most perilous times in the history of my region before it became a country, the people sacrificed their lives for the dignified end of marginalization induced by the Arabs on us. It's not lost on me that I didn't enjoy the rights enjoyed by the children of other parts of the world. However, I was attending the obsequies of my mates murdered during the political struggle for us to be an independent state. As juvenile as I was, my mind drowned in perplexity since I couldn't ruminate about the future.


The Cold December 2013 reminds me of one acrimonious experience that dissipated in my presence when my country went into the deadliest conflagration of all time in her annals. On that clammy evening was a law ruling the atmosphere_ the roaring and slam-bang of lethal modern artillery. You would stare at the child and person with whom you were together for a few minutes lying on the ground dead. You could see blood flowing on the street as if it rained. The blood of families was separated as you could struggle to escape death. Our family escaped to the forest because it was a safe place. However, the war wouldn't come to a transient end. We suffered in the bushes, feeding on wild fruits and leaves, sleeping on the muddy soil, and becoming victims of mosquito bites.


As our chances of living became slim, my mother decided we should go for refuge in the neighboring nation called Uganda. However, before reaching the border, we had to trek for three days on foot in the Equatorial Forest to the border to go to one of the camps in Uganda. It was terrible as it was our first time moving such a long distance. All in all, we made it to Nyumanzi Camp Settlement. Life was once promising again because we could eat like normal human beings, not before the war in our country through the help of the World Food Program and other Humanitarian Agencies.


Looking back on my life full of hardships and misery, it didn't stop me from exerting any force necessary to find a way that I could impact my community at some point. However, I asked myself one day what I could do for society. A massive amount of things came to mind. Nonetheless, I filtered everything and remained with two blueprints. Coming from a background where the girl child is considered powerless and traded off for bride price instead of being taken to school, I sought leadership in Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS). I later founded Girls In Pattern(GIP), a club meant to fight the inequality in the education of South Sudanese women. Over the past six years, we have helped over 600 South Sudanese girls in the camp gain access to education and have sat the Uganda national examinations through campaigning, mentorship programs, and mobilizing communities and government officials back in South Sudan to fund the education of our efforts in promoting girl child education.


Moreover, in Mingling with students, I interacted with different personalities at the school. I participated in various school activities, led clubs, and earned political positions in the Student Government. I made sure I studied well to prepare myself as a leader of the people. I knew if I focused on my studies, I would bring a change to the country. " Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to bring change." Said, Nelson Mandela. I got empowered by that aphorism and wanted to become the agent of change in my country and the world.


Conclusively, Through my education, I will make society understand peacekeeping methods and become a leader who brings peace to the human race.


HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS.

by: - Najoli Foly.

Kenya

Some few months before I sat for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams, the country that borders mine to the North was divided into two. Before then, it was considered the largest country in Africa. One of the countries, would later on be referred to as the youngest or rather newest country in Africa. The thing about Social Studies exams in particular is that the first few questions are on map work. But to be on the safer side you might need to be at least conversant with current societal trends. Hence the whole compass direction description and whatnot.


But other than that, most of us looked forward to simply sitting for the exams to transition into high school and would spend most of the time mulling about the schools we would like to join. Every so often we would meet during break time and speak of our dreams at length. Such was a day after the bell rang marking an end to our Social Studies lesson and the beginning of lunch break. A few days after the news of South Sudan gaining independence from Sudan hit both local and international screens, my social studies teacher asked my then-classmate her views on the recent developments in her home country right before the lesson ended. I can’t quite say that I remember her response, or if there was ever any response from her end. All I know is that the question was directed to her, and once the bell rang we went by our day.


Now, looking back, I wonder what her response would have been. How she felt about it. I wonder how I would have responded. I wonder how it might have felt living in another country far from what you once knew while a revolution took place. Because what would I have known about the turmoil of being separated from your family members? My mum, for the longest time, had to wait till we were preoccupied so that she would sneak out of the house without us noticing just to keep us from wailing whenever she left for work during the holidays. What do I know about a journey I have never been through but through broadcasts, geographical maps on a sheet of paper and proxies? What do I know?

I know her. Sometimes, I remember parts of her. Her name, Anyol. She was taller than most of us, had melanated skin and when she spoke, the few times she did, you would catch her accent every so often. Not to say that she was the only one with an accent, far from it. My country is made up of 40-plus tribes, so it’s not unlikely that in a classroom of approximately forty-five pupils, at least five will have the effects of their local dialect in their speech.

The last time I saw Anyol, was after our final paper and while most of us looked forward to ditching our school uniforms and changing our hairstyles just in time for December festivities. She was so excited about going back home. And I remember seeing her face light up as she spoke about it. Not that her excitement meant much to me, but listening to her speak with longing made my heart smile from within. And I wondered where her heart had been all along. After all, don’t they say that home is where your heart is? And my hope for her, was that her heart was with her.


See, it’s easy for me to throw around these possessive pronouns. My country, your heart, her home, their tribe, his roots. But in all honesty I can only speak of I. And, if I am being honest, I have never been outside the borders of this country. However, I choose

to accompany you on this journey home. I choose to honor you who was/ is/ has been caught in warring factions and branded a refugee or immigrant. To offer you not just a piece of land to settle on but a listening ear. I choose to see you. I choose to listen. Now speak, unlike before, I am listeni


Triumph and Resilience quenched my thirst.

By Racheal Adol Ajang

South Sudan


I believe that life is something designed by the Almighty to mold you, make you stronger and be able to become a person who is aware of his or her purpose. It is not a choice to be born in the life you are in today, but your life is designed to build you. I learnt that the life we live has a specific purpose, all the experiences in life are meant to lead us to our purpose. As I quench my thirst for Education with the golden opportunity that I got from Mastercard Foundation, I would like to narrate my story. My story strengthens me, I appreciate my background and the life I was born in. It made me the strong and determined lady I am today, a lady with purpose and direction in life appreciating every opportunity that comes my way. I believe my story can motivate others and give them a reason not to retreat in life.


The City Under the sun, Kakuma Refugee Camp

Kakuma Refugee Camp defines my identity. I was born in Kakuma Refugee Camp, the same to all my siblings since my parents arrived in the Refugee Camp in the 1990s before we were born. The Camp has been the only place we know well, being born and raised there has contributed to who I am today. Well, being a refugee is not by choice but circumstances like war in our countries made us embrace that title. In the camp love, unity and care is what we are taught for a better future. At a young age I learnt responsibility and how to survive alone, in the camp life was not so easy.


I really liked school so much, when I was so young, I used to attend a nursery school, but the schools were so full of students that we had to carry metal tins to sit on. It

was so hard for the teacher to teach more than two hundred students in one class. It was so hard for us too to learn, but I persistently attended classes. My teacher noticed my abilities, she could appoint me to lead in reciting poems in front of United Nations officials when they visited schools. My mother, who was always supportive and believed that I was meant for great things, would always support me. She did small business to support us with things we needed. In the camp we received monthly donations of flour, oil and other food stuff which helped us survive.


I completed my Primary School Education successfully and passed, my mother helped me to complete my first step in Education. We were all stressed since the scholarships of joining high school were very limited, many people had passed the national exams. My mother had no other support since by that time my father had already passed away. George Samuel Clason once said, “Men of action are favored by the Goddess of good luck. “My mother´s efforts bore fruits; I got a community scholarship which only took fifteen students. In my storm of life, she has always been there indeed there is no love greater than a mother´s love, she was my anchor. Not talking much about the dark days of living hand to mother that she supported us, my mother is a heroine.

Well, I had selected to join a school in another province, I knew that surviving somewhere far from the refugee camp was going to be hard I would only be coming home during holidays. I had to do it for my mother and family. It was another chapter of my life that determined my future, I had in my mind that I had to bring something home not to waste my mother’s efforts.


My journey in Leadership and Community Services

After completing my high school with good grades, I went back home to the refugee camp to go and serve the community and wait for an opportunity to join university. I started teaching in high school and primary school. I liked my students so much; they were willing to learn to make their lives better. I realized that there were many schools drops out in the camp, early marriages, drugs, and gender inequality. In the year 2020 my friends whom we had completed high school and we were teaching came up with the idea of forming a group known as Youth Drive Association. The group was mainly formed to empower the youth in the refugee camp. We wanted to deal community problems that the youth were facing in the camp, many girls got married at an early age and ended up with no hope in life.

Youth Drive was the best thing that ever happened in my life. I got courage to speak out for my fellow Youths and act as their role model. We went to all schools and did career guidance, entrepreneurship and public speaking which involved many things like scholarships opportunities, drug abuse, life skills, importance of education and eradicating early marriages. We also went to community occasions where we talked about issues like gender equality, early marriages, and the importance of educating girl children. We could move all over the refugee camp, I became the chairperson of the group. The team brought an impact to the community, I could participate in zoom

meeting connecting all refugee led associations in the world. I became bold and addressed issues arising in the camp.


Global Refugee Youth Network noticed the impact that we were bringing to the community, and we worked with them. They funded our activities, and this made things easier. We bought items for activities, exams papers for the schools. Youth Drive brought smiles to many faces, leading to a better society. I also associated myself with other groups like ´´Vijana Twaweza´´which is a group that works with agriculture. Despite the camp being dry and very hot, the team planted trees and built fishponds for people to easily access food. The group also planted cabbages and kale. All those groups built who I am today. A better society was my pure intentions whereby everyone gets to respect human rights and opportunities to achieve their goals in life. I want the youth to have that skill of grabbing opportunities and strive to make their future bright.


Efforts bear fruits.

As I was doing my community services, I also applied for scholarships to further my studies, some rejected me, but I never lost hope, I knew that luck comes at its own time. I had to try any opportunity that came my way. I was lucky to be granted Mastercard Foundation Scholarship, it quenched my thirst for further studies. I was so happy that God finally answered my prayers and my efforts bore fruits. My mother

was so proud of me and how much I had grown to be a determined and focused lady. Studying agricultural sciences, which is the backbone of every country, has always been my dream. I will make use of this golden opportunity granted by Mastercard Foundation to study hard and become the savior to my country South Sudan. I have never been there, but my mother has always wanted me to become an important person and save lives in the country. As she waits for me to deliver them from the refugee camp.

Appreciate the life you live; grab every opportunity you get and respect human rights for peace to reign in your life and people around you.



LEFT HOME SEEKING SAFETY

BY MACH SAMUEL BHEER PACH

South Sudan

In this planet earth, evil acts tend to prevail over moral behaviors. In fact, People have preferred violence, persecution and oppression among others making them the key genesis of asylum and refuge seeking in the modern history. As a result, most people have evacuated their homes for safety measures. Sadly, the negative effects of such acts which threaten the defenseless lives of citizens are seldom considered by the benefactors. Their ego has seized control over their decisions as long as their families and loved ones are on a safer hand.

I am from South Sudan, one of the world’s youngest countries. It should be noted that, South Sudan is a country whose forefathers battled for two decades against Arab oppression and supremacy to live the honorable life that they all envisioned, subsequently, leading to her independence on the 9th of July 2011. Meanwhile liberation was the theme, asylum and refuge seeking had been the daily bread of the southerners in the previously known Sudan hence placing South Sudan the fourth country with current refugee crisis in the whole world.

It was not more than two years later after independence, when the political leaders vie for power. For this reason, civil war erupted once more and violence continued to ravage the country till date. With this in mind, I became a refugee in Uganda for the second time in my life after the previous civil wars in the Sudan. As a born of 2002 who was raised in a refugee camp, I had never been separated from my parents and guardians. Being my first experience, I witnessed terrifying scenes on my way out of the burning nation that left me in debt. Undoubtedly, seeing individuals being shot to death at my sight was a daily occurrence. Worst of all, was when I saw two soldiers fighting for their lives after being severely slashed with knife. Fear and anxiety had always taken control over me as I thought of being the next victim. I couldn't stop crying anytime I came across dead bodies by the roadside. There was a point I starved to an extent I couldn’t continue my trek but I still hoped to find food ahead. I fed on fruits and roots of unknown trees I came across as well as drinking from ditches and dirty streams. All these were my main source of energy throughout the horrible journey.

Resettling as a refugee in Uganda had affected me heavily. I lived a lonely live accompanied by anxiety, fear and illnesses. My situations were elevated by the absence of my immediate guardians that left me worried for a long time till we reunited. Not only did I suffer emotionally but also faced difficulties in academics. I could neither concentrate in classroom activities nor associate myself with other peers due to previous war memories. With the help of UNICEF, I got exposed to a variety of games and counselling workshops hence mitigating my mental state. These inspired my passion for the current medical career am enrolled in. I hope to specialize in psychiatric because it’s the only best way I believe to effectively interact and treat those mentally disturbed. Consequently, making the world once more a better place for them to live.

In conclusion, having been involved in multiple civil wars in the past have left most South Sudanese population with a wild mindset. This gives it an advantage over the present disputes that have disrupted the country's peace and prosperity. To remodel a nation free from such catastrophes, I therefore strongly emphasize on education for the younger generations since it’s the most superior weapon that can make people realize their wrong behaviors and lead them to a more fruitful route. By the same token, it inspires my work at DWA Scholars Hub. DWA Scholars Hub is a college access initiative of Darling Wisdom Academy Alumni meant to provide college admittance to exceptional South Sudanese high school students who are high achievers, low-income, and unable to continue their studies. We aim at preparing and connecting students to different scholarships around the globe. It’s currently the best thing I can do to contribute to a new version of generation different from the past.


MY TORN CHILDHOOD.

Bishock Mawich Gany

South Sudan


When people talked about war, I didn't know what it could bring not until it happened in my country south Sudan, all I knew was that people die of gun shoots and in the end the actor wins as I used too watch in the movies of john Rambo and Chuck Norris, much as I was not there physically to witness the war and it's crimes against humanity, we as family were forced to seek refuge from the United nations Camps in refugee settlement. At first the description of the camp was amazing because it was termed to be land of free diversities, free food, education and almost every social service from the United nations. We commenced our journey in the noon hours and the destination was to take us 4 hours. It started raining on our way but mum convinced us that it was a sign of good luck. Hopefully we were going to be in a good place.

At 5:30 PM, we reached the settlement but the story was different from what we expected to see. I looked everywhere and I understood that the place was shared by different tribes, they all spoke different languages and didn’t pay attention to us as visitors, up the tents were written “UNHCR”. The word was not new to me because it was one of the common questions that I was always asked in my primary social studies.


Night came and everybody went to sleep in a tent that was given out by United Nations workers to every family but I could close my eyes to sleep. Lying on a mat was a new experience that didn’t make me comfortable at all. This night was so long and I felt like I had 10 sleepless nights in only one night.


Early in the morning, everyone was reverie, they waited for a bell to ring so that they can run to serve breakfast, lunch and supper respectively, the porridge was prepared from yellow CSB flour with sometimes little or no sugar, the food served was posho and yellow cow peas that lacked ingredients. This meal was just for sustainability, otherwise it was not delicious at all.

After a few days, the settlement started being in tears as every morning came with different news, different families shaded every hour after a phone call. I could see people cry on phone calls and because I was new in the area, I didn’t have a friend to share my ideas with concerning the situation in the settlement my twin brother always looked confused like me. At 14 years old, my mind didn’t have the capacity to clearly examine what had made tribes speechless from one another despite sharing the same plates to serve food.

In whatever condition we were, the rest of the world was watching and listening to our new death rate records. As my country South Sudan, we became the global headlines of every news hourly both on radios and televisions.

Days came, survivors arrived at the settlement and started narrating the military offensive acts they saw and escaped from. Our minds started painting pictures with a sense of hatred, disbelief and horror. These negative stories captivated our minds to think differently about our brothers from other tribes. Many of us grew up with psychological disorders and trauma because it was too difficult to make lifetime choices depending on what the elders always taught us about the Dinkas, it was too hard to bare the pain of staying in the same school with a person who is claimed to have killed your brothers at home but since schools preached unity not division among us, our minds were reprogrammed to look at fellow tribes as our own brothers and sisters, schools as well kept as busy since we much concentrated on our books in order to pass exams more that giving attention to hating fellow schoolmates.


My journey through the refuge camp has been a transformative one. As I reflect on the challenges I faced, the lessons I learned, and the growth I experienced, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude and a renewed perspective on life.

The obstacles I encountered allowed me to dig deep within, tap into my inner strength, and emerge stronger than ever before. I learned that setbacks are not roadblocks, but opportunities for growth and self-discovery.


As I move forward, I will carry these lessons with me, knowing that life's challenges are not meant to break me but to shape me into a better version of myself. I am emboldened to face future obstacles with courage, knowing that within me lies the resilience and determination to overcome any adversity.


In sharing my personal journey, I hope to inspire others to embrace their own stories, to find strength in vulnerability, and to never lose sight of the incredible growth that can arise from life's trials. We are all capable of transforming our hardships into stepping stones towards personal growth and fulfilment.


In conclusion, I am grateful for the journey I have undertaken, for it has shaped me into the person I am today. With newfound wisdom and an unwavering belief in my own resilience, I look forward to embracing the future and continuing to learn, grow, and thrive.





















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