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Stories of love, not hatred, give South Sudan’s children the courage and hope to pursue their dreams

Working with children in South Sudan is both inspiring and sad in this part of the world. As a social worker for three years now, I learned a lot to value patience. Children affected by conflict, those who underwent abuse, and going through a painful experience witnessing a seven-year-old being disowned by his uncle because of having HIV and AIDS is heartbreaking work. I know the feeling.

When I was a year and six months old, my mother left me in the care of my grandmother Rostica, now 82 years old. We never heard from her since. I did not get the chance to know my mother. Losing her and the feeling of being abandoned is traumatic and I get reminded of this loss every time I see my friends with and being cared for by their mothers.

Only the love and care of my grandmother kept me strong. My own journey as a child helped me understand what millions of South Sudan’s children go through. Now a social worker and a mother, I often use my life as an example whenever I talk to their parents about child care and child rights. 

Watch video: How South Sudan's mothers rise against the COVID-19 pandemic 

Showing care as a social worker and a mother give people, like John Edmond and his grandmother, the courage that they are not alone. That World Vision and their community are with them.

 

South Sudan’s children come from various backgrounds and upbringing. They have to be treated and supported differently. Some of these children who grew up in families where there is domestic violence tend to become violent. Those who experienced emotional abuse are often shy and have the tendency to isolate themselves from other children. 

Children with health complications are referred to the hospitals for medical assessment and corresponding treatment. On one of these visits in a community in Juba, I found seven-year-old John Edmond* and six-months-old Joseph*.

By sharing my own life and how I rose from my suffering through the love of people around me after being abandoned, I help give them hope. These stories of love instead of stories of war and hatred will give them courage.

John Edmond was staying with his uncle after his mother died of an unknown sickness. Last June 2020, he got sick and I took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed to be HIV and AIDS positive. His uncle threw him out of his house fearing his own children will also be infected. 

John Edmond now stays with his old grandmother who can hardly walk due to old age. We make sure James gets his monthly drug supply as part of his recommended treatment as well as the food ration. Checking on him from time to time, I felt sad his uncle drove him away when he needed a family to take care of him.

Watch video: Fight against COVID-19 requires clean water and sufficient supply

The smile in Joseph's face mean a lot. It shows that he feels the love of people around him.

 

Joseph* has almost the same story. His mother died when he was one week old. When his uncle found out that he has HIV and AIDS, he refused to take care of the baby. World Vision stepped in and brought him for treatment. He is now a healthy boy and his uncle accepted him back after we enlightened them on proper care of the baby.

Getting the disease was never these children’s fault and they should never suffer because of what they have not done. At times like this, I deal with my work not only as a social worker but also as a mother. 

But I challenged myself to focus on what is good knowing that all these children is being cared for, loved, listened to, allowed to play, and being understood.  

As a mother of two sons William and Mboridie, I always advocate fellow mothers the importance of having a good relationship with their own children. I believe this is crucial as it brings them closer to each other and creates a safe space for them to grow and become stronger.

The relationship I have with my sons is amazing. I feel the ease and comfort they feel when I am home spending time with them. I miss them so much but cannot travel to Uganda where they are because of the lockdown restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.

My husband Ettore Kero takes care of them while I am working in Juba, but I make sure to call them every day to keep in touch and be able to remind them of the prevention measures to stay safe. My family sought refuge and live in Kampala for 10 years now so the children can have a better education.

Watch video: Ending violence against women and girls in South Sudan

Sarah shares her own life and how she rose from abandonment to give hope to others.

 

South Sudan has 64 different tribes, hence, different cultures, behaviors, and traditions. In the midst of these, some children grow up with misconceptions and misunderstanding that other tribes are not as good as theirs made my initial experience at work difficult.

But I challenged myself to focus on what is good knowing that all these children is being cared for, loved, listened to, allowed to play, and being understood.  

It took me several months to earn the children’s trust. It is fascinating to hear the children share their stories especially the girls. Their stories break my heart. No one can imagine a 14-year-old girl being discouraged from going to school and told to marry for the family to survive. 

When World Vision’s child-friendly spaces were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, my work focused more on raising awareness in the nutrition centers that World Vision supports. Together with the team, we conduct door-to-door protection case management through visiting households.   

As a South Sudanese mother myself, I believe the future of these children is largely in our hands. By sharing my own life and how I rose from my suffering through the love of people around me after being abandoned, I help give them hope. These stories of love instead of stories of war and hatred will give them courage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shattered many of our plans but our hopes and dreams for the children must remain alive for where there is life there is hope. Children like John Edmond and Joseph, despite having HIV and AIDS, deserve a safe space and opportunities to grow and enjoy a life in all its fullness. 

Watch video: How South Sudan's children are affected by the coronavirus pandemic

Blog by Sarah Naduru, World Vision's Social Worker based in Juba. Photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Coordinator