Uganda: A long struggle
27 August 2012

JRS in Adjumani provided comprehensive educational services for children and adults. Frido Pflueger/JRS
My advice to refugees living in camps is to make use of the services offered by NGOs and to not waste time there. Be the doctor of yourself – by that I mean, constantly refer to your dreams for the future and never lose hope.
Juba, 27 August 2012 – My name is Reuben* and I am a former refugee, now living back in my home country, South Sudan. I want to share my story and thank JRS for the service they provided to me over the years. In 1994, aged just six years-old, I fled with my mother from southern Sudan to Adjumani, Uganda as we tried to escape the terrible war.

On arrival in Uganda, the government policy was to place Sudanese refugees in camps. We were allocated Maaji Refugee Camp, Adjumani District. In some ways life in Adjumani was good. We had free movement without restriction, healthcare, food provided by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), and of course we were safe from the ravages of war.

However life in the camp also had its downsides. It was a struggle to pay my primary school fees. I felt I had no political voice and instead watched various friends being forcibly taken to join the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). There was limited land for us refugees to do subsistence farming, and there were very few jobs. In addition, women in the camp feared attacks and rape from some Ugandan citizens.

Despite the challenges over the years, I was lucky enough to receive educational support from JRS. I was sponsored throughout my entire secondary school education, and also received scholastic materials. The JRS support has greatly helped my progress in life and ensured that my time in the camp was not wasted. It has made me into the responsible person I am today.

In 2008, I received the good news that I would be repatriated to southern Sudan by UNCHR. Although by this point I was an orphan as my mother had died, I felt strong and confident – this is in no small part linked to the education I received from JRS.

On my return to southern Sudan, I gained a certificate in medical laboratory work and I am now proud to say that I am working as a technician in a hospital – able to support my young sister and brother. I also try to be involved in community activities in my area such as advising the youth on HIV and AIDs awareness and the advantages of education.

My advice to refugees living in camps is to make use of the services offered by NGOs and to not waste time there. Be the doctor of yourself – by that I mean, constantly refer to your dreams for the future and never lose hope.

I wanted to share this message of love to inspire other refugees and share how I struggled. My dream for the future is to support my community to build an orphanage, a health centre and possibly a church. I would also like to support community agricultural activities and continue with further studies.

JRS worked in Adjumani, Uganda from 1992–2008, supporting thousands of Sudanese refugees to pursue their education while in the camp. After the war ended, most of the refugees were repatriated back to Sudan to re-build their lives.

*Not real name