It is a common belief that refugees are always in want, they are the most dependent and at the mercy of everyone. Given their vulnerability, oftentimes it can be true. But it is not uncommon to see refugees living very positive lives, push themselves to live in better conditions and even become examples for others who have most of their needs met.
Here in Palabek Refugee Settlement Camp in Uganda we have several exemplary and uplifting stories of refugees who have rebuilt lives and even become role models to the host community members who have accommodated refugees within their community. Our Mission’s motto is “Rebuilding Lives”!
Salesians who live and work among the refugees for the past four years are happy to witness children and young people who come out of their surmounting problems and excel in their study, career and personal wellbeing. They are models not only for refugee youth but also for others.
Here we share the generosity and bigheartedness of our three young people during COVID surge:
Lino Mwaka Brian: The 17 year old refugee boy came from Labone in South Sudan looking for safety, basic needs and education. He came with his mother, two sisters and one brother. Later he was joined by other siblings and relatives. He enrolled himself in the only secondary school (which almost lacks every scholastic need) of the Camp and completed two years of secondary education. With little tone he narrates with sadness all the hardships he endured in the first days of refugee life in Palabek. Salesians gave a helping hand through the school sponsorship programme by taking him to our Don Bosco High School in Bombo, where he is doing well.
Now his challenges are absence of his mother who has gone back to South Sudan to look for food to compliment the meager food ration in the Camp, taking up the headship of the home looking after his younger siblings during this Lockdown period, his inability to provide needs for his little brothers and sisters who are in need of food, clothes and basic needs. Indeed a minor became the family’s head!
In spite of his deprivations, Brian has volunteered to help in the distribution of food that Salesians are engaged in the Camp. Together with his two other friends, Brian moved around the Camp identifying the neediest and brought the list of persons for help. He says, this experience helped him to be a more responsible person. Now Brian hopes to complete his school successfully and hopes to pursue higher education.
Ochan Saviour Lamson Girah: Ochan, 16 year old boy is the third born among six siblings. From Owiny Kibul, South Sudan, an area bordering Ugandan border he ran for safety, food and education and found safe haven in Palabek Refugee Settlement Camp. With signs of trauma hidden in his voice, he says that it became dangerous to move in South Sudan, so had to leave. He also said that when his mother died, his father remarried and moved on with a new family, causing abandonment.
Now he lives with his elder brother and other younger siblings in Palabek. His hardships are unable to find treatment for his siblings while they are sick; as five are going to primary school it is difficult to meet all the school requirements. He became active in Don Bosco Youth Center and got an opportunity to go to Don Bosco High School in Bombo for better education. Ochan is very grateful to the Salesians for their educational assistant and he hopes to make best use of his study opportunity.
Ochan is a generous youth who is moved by the plight of his fellow refugees, especially the sick, old and handicapped. He volunteered to help Fr. Julius who was reaching out to the vulnerable refugees. Through the generosity and keep interest of Ochan, Salesians were able to reach out to the more vulnerable.
Obong-Too John Romeo: The 20 year refugee youth is a trainee in Hair-Dressing and he dreams of becoming a Gents-Specialist in hair styles. At the break of the war, he fled from the Owiny Kibul area in South Sudan and settled in Palabek Refugee Settlement Camp. Romeo is endowed with great cheerfulness and always beams with a smile. But behind his joy and smile there are sad stories of war and deprivation. Romeo brings happiness in the youth group and in the lives of fellow youth.
Romeo lives with his mum, four brothers and one sister. Just like most other refugee families it is rather difficult to share small little huts with the limited land space of 30X30 meters.
Together with his two other friends Lino and Saviour, during the COVID Epidemic Romeo helped the Salesians to distribute several tons of maize flour and beans to the starving refugees, especially the old and handicapped. While sharing his experience of servicing the neediest, Romeo says that it has given him joy in serving and he confesses that there are refugees who suffer more than him.