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Manytai Joseph: This former child soldier turns into World Vision's emergency responder

I was 10 years old when I was recruited to join an armed group and was trained for a year. It was against my will but every family was required, and those who have none needed to give five male bulls. At a young age I was against it but I was not given the choice.

When UNHCR came in 1992, they took minor boys like me to Kakuma Refugee Camp where I was able to go to primary school. The refugee resettlement prioritizing minors were then initiated by the US Government allowing thousands to go to the United States.

I was on the list, but when the attacks against the US happened on 11 September 2001, the process was closed and I did not make it. In 2004, I completed my senior four studies and went home to Unity State.

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Manytai talks to one of the mothers during a food distribution activity in Keich Kuon, one of the remote areas supported by World Vision and the World Food Programme (WFP).

 

I started working with humanitarian organizations in 2006, and found my way to World Vision in 2013 as non-food items (NFIs) distribution monitor. In 2015, I moved as food assistance monitor supporting the rapid response team.

My job includes accounting of all the dropped food commodities, ensuring accuracy in distribution of food to the people and protection of children at the distribution sites. Ahead of the distribution, we always seek the support and guidance of the community leaders and local chiefs.

This work has taken me to places my ancestors have never been to. I am very proud to be a part of the team. I have worked in many remote communities and met people coming from different cultural backgrounds, learning new things in the process.

My most unforgettable experience was during the lockdown prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and we were unable to pay the casual workers helping us in the distribution work.

I realized that we can overcome challenges even in hostile environments because that is what our hearts tell us to do. I am proud of World Vision’s trust in me giving me the chance for this job.

We were so concerned for the people who needed the payment for their family’s needs but the coronavirus made things very tough for us to do something. They were eventually paid after three months of waiting but they also understood the constraints beyond our control.

During the lockdown on June 2020, instead of six staff members, it was only me and another colleague, Peter Wenesayo, who were deployed in Udier drop site, a part of Longechuk County. Our task - to distribute to 15,429 people.

Other members of the team including our RRM Coordinator Benard Nyataya was in Mathiang County initiating for activity for close to 10,000 people. We did not have enough food and water supply and the other team cannot deliver to us.

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At the food assistance drop site where Manytai and the rest of the team members have to stay in the sun for days to ensure that food commodities dropped are accounted for and distributed to people in the registration list.

 

We went ahead with the distribution foregoing our lunch and toilet breaks until evening as we were keen for people to get their food supply. We tried to drink from the local borehole but that gave us stomach problems.

For seven days, we plowed on with the work, verifying cards and distributing food, fearing that people, especially the children, will suffer of hunger if we stopped.

I realized after that experience that we can overcome challenges even in hostile environments because that is what our hearts tell us to do. I am also proud of World Vision’s trust in me giving me the chance for this job.

When I was a small boy, my dream was to become an agriculturist which is an important vocation when peace comes to South Sudan. I ended up working in food assistance program which is still related to my dream.

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This tent is home to the team for days and weeks, keeping them safe from mosquitos, wild animals and bad weather.

 

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Written by Manytai Joseph, World Vision's Food Assistance Monitor for the Rapid Response Mechanism Program I Photos by Eugene Combo and Christopher Lete, Communications