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Meet Sarah: A young refugee looking to a bright future

Having fled conflict in South Sudan and suffered sexual violence, Sarah is now looking to start an education in the refugee camp where she lives, with support from Plan International.

Sarah* with her son in Kule refugee camp, Ethiopia
Sarah* holding her son in Kule refugee camp, Ethiopia

Sarah*, 18, is from the Upper Nile in South Sudan, but has been living in Kule refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, since 2014. She has a disability and is unable to walk on her own. Joined by her grandmother, it took them 5 days to reach the refugee camp on foot.

“It was very horrible, many people were killed, raped and kidnapped - it was the worst experience that I have ever seen and really it is very difficult to remember that bad memory,” says Sarah.

“I left my family, brothers and sisters. Oh! It was so hard, I left my beloved village. I am still worried as I don’t know the whereabouts of my brothers and sisters. Everything is destroyed there.”

Dangerous journey

Entering Ethiopia was a journey fraught with danger so they were relieved to arrive at Kule refugee camp safely. However, Sarah's relief turned to horror when she was then raped by an unknown man and became pregnant.

“It was so hard for me, because as you can see – I’m not able to do anything by myself, I am disabled,” says Sarah.

Her challenges mounted with the birth of her son – but Plan International was able to help.

Refugee support

“Plan International provided me with a blanket, mattress, and hygiene kit. Plan staff also visited me and my child regularly to see how we were doing. They have linked us with other NGOs (non-governmental organisations) for nutrition food supply. Oh! Plan is doing good things in this camp,” says Sarah.

“Previously there was no school for children here, but now Plan International constructed a school and children have returned to school. There is also a child-friendly space… All children are happy to play there.”

I have never attended school before. I would like to take this opportunity to go to school in the camp

Plan International’s child-friendly spaces provide safe, supervised areas for children where they can come together to learn, play and receive emotional support.

Hiwote Simachew, Child Protection and Education in Emergency Specialist at Plan International Ethiopia, explains: “Establishing and promoting child-friendly spaces as well as case management activities like family reunification, foster care arrangement, psychosocial support and non-food item material support are the major services that the project provides for the refugee community in the camp.”

Bright future

Plan International also works in partnership with like-minded NGOs to refer refugees to their services to ensure all of their needs are met.

“Now my 3-month-old child and I are doing well. Our lives are slowly returning to normal. I have never attended school before. I would like to take this opportunity to go to school in the camp constructed by Plan International. I have hope; my future is bright thanks to support from Plan International,” says Sarah. 


* Name has been changed for child protection purposes