South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world, however the problems this young nation faces are gigantic; it has had not only political instabilities but also severe economic instability. These destabilize the nation in all aspects, leaving families split and scattered. This pulls loved ones apart.
Duncan* lived happily with his parents in one of the peaceful zones of South Sudan. They had a peaceful family, they always had time off in evenings to be spent together, and Duncan looked forward to a bright future, thinking about what he would like to be as he grew up.
And every time his father asked him what he wanted to be, he stated he wanted to be an automotive engineer (mechanic). One night, as they were about to have their family meal, they heard over the radio a government warning that the rebels had been ambushed and were fleeing close to the area, and that locals should be cautious. This paralyzed the family. They rushed into preparation to leave, little did they know it was too late. They started hearing gun shots and in no time Yeyi was a war zone.
As the war intensified, the family fled. During the time they were leaving, they all became separated somewhere around the Ugandan border. This was unbelievably difficult for Duncan, he neither had an idea where his parents were nor what had happened to them. South Sudan wasn’t a safe place to be now. He went to the bus park and sought any free transit to Uganda. But the bus drivers wouldn’t let him come on his own. To get around this, he jumped into the luggage section under the bus. He got a free ride and when the bus made a stopover, he jumped out.
Life on the Streets
He saw an urban capital and he was amazed to see new things everywhere. He realized he was in Kampala. He couldn’t understand the language they were speaking, but luckily enough, he could speak English well. His joy was short-lived when he fell asleep on the streets only to be awakened by the police who wanted to arrest him for being idle on the street. When he escaped from them he ran into the slums where he found street connected children discussing their intention of coming to Jinja. They couldn’t survive in Kampala as the police made their lives too difficult. They decided to walk to Jinja. This is a journey of over 84km!
When Duncan reached Jinja, he met other street connected children. He was now looking very ramshackle and shabby. He had no idea about his parents. He missed his family and his life in South Sudan. This was all deep sorrow for the nine year old. It was a very different a situation for a child who lived in proper shelter to move to living on the street, a child who had nice consistent meals to go without any.
While on streets he received lots of criticism – he was not used to this new kind of life. But all this changed when the S.A.L.V.E International team met him. We brought him to our Halfway Home for medical care, counselling, nutritious food and love. Here we had lots of time and trainings. We discovered the numerous skills and creativity of Duncan. He loves doing art in particular. He got to feel like he was safe at last.
Right now, S.A.L.V.E. is taking appropriate measures to get Duncan home for good working with the South Sudanese Embassy and Local Ugandan Government. Meanwhile we have put him into boarding school so he doesn’t miss out on his education and chance to develop his skills.
Let’s all remember that our brothers and sisters in other countires need the same love and care as those from our own country. All children need care and education, no matter where they are from. I say to any refugees like Duncan – We will stand with you.
* Duncan’s name was changed in this public forum as part of our child protection policy.