Omega Dada, a refugee student from South Sudan, reflects on his time in Brussels at the European Humanitarian Forum (EHF) and the High-Level Conference on Education in Emergencies (EiE).
I was taken by surprise when I received the news that I was going to represent my fellow refugees living in Uganda at the EHF and EiE conference in Brussels.
I received the news with mixed feelings; very excited for the once in a lifetime opportunity of meeting noble world leaders in the same room. I must note that I consider it a situation changing and life transforming moment.
I was also very nervous to meet the leaders face to face, but the thought of the 5 years as a refugee gave me the confidence to walk the leaders through a first-hand experience of forcefully fleeing our home to a foreign land, and sharing the lived experiences of thousands of children who find themselves in the same place as me.
I couldn’t ask for more during this life time.
When I shared the news with my mother, she fell to her knees in thanksgiving for such a great blessing in her house. Our neighbors all joined in the celebrations. The Brussels trip was the talk in my village.
Travel day from the refugee settlement was a celebratory send off with prayers, one leader after another till everyone said their prayers. The World Vision team that came for me patiently waited till every one said their blessings.
We arrived Brussels late in the night, I felt very exhausted from the long flight; the first of a kind in my life. It was a great experience in the air, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the window, the scene was so breath taking.
I was filled with nervousness on the first day of the conference, majorly because of the noble people that were in the room and the surprise that I was finally there. It was a dream come true.
On the other hand, an amazing feeling of calm came over me when I was given the opportunity to share. For me, I was carrying the voices of hundreds of thousands of children back home. I knew this was a one-time shoot to share their plight, it was a now or never moment.
As a student of science in the refugee settlement who missed a scholarship because no secondary school in the refugee settlement could take me at the advanced level because there is no functional laboratory and equipment to facilitate study, I knew first-hand how dreams are crushed.
While at the conference, I knew that no one else could tell the actual story of a refugee child like me. Seeing the high level leaders in the room was enough to convince me that one day I could see the impact of why I travel that far.
Noting by the questions the various leaders were asking me and the way they nodded their heads during the presentation, I could tell many were finally understanding the story of the refugee child.
It was such an inspiration and a mindset changing experience for me.
I feel empowered to ignite change in my community, to speak for the those that may never get the opportunity to. I feel the hope and dreams of many children might never come to light if I don’t speak up, I feel a sense of responsibility towards my community.