We want to introduce you to one of our volunteers in South Sudan, Nyaruma – though that’s not her real name, and this isn’t a picture of her either. She asked us to protect her identity and we of course agreed. That’s the thing with this civil war - no one can afford to take any chances, safety is fleeting. Nyaruma is a refugee living in Old Fangak. She’s originally from Malakal, once the second largest city in the country, now emptied and turned to ashes. She is a loving and kind 30-year-old woman. It’s rare to catch her without a smile. Before the war, she taught high-school level Math and Arabic. At night she took English classes at the local women’s center, with hopes to one day add that to her teaching repertoire.
Nyaruma fled Malakal in the spring of 2014. She says of the day she ran for her life, ‘It will never escape my memories. Never. I think about it every single day.’ It was early in the morning when she woke to the sounds of gunfire and commotion. She knew what was happening, this wasn’t the first outbreak of fighting in the city. But this time it was close, really close, so she ran. In the morning mist and mayhem she slipped out of the city and into the surrounding marsh. She spent the next two days hiding with other women and children. They ate lily pads and drank water straight from the marsh. Everyone got sick, and not everyone made it. They traveled through the swamp in waist high water for 18 days before reaching Old Fangak. There they found water wells, thriving gardens and a clinic – all made possible by your donations. The group decided to stay, joining the ranks of what would become 45,000 refugees.
This past winter Nyaruma worked as a translator and for us. She took us to meet other refugees living in the area. Our goal was to get a better idea of their needs and to reassess what type of projects make sense in the ever-growing and changing village we once knew so well.
After working with us for a month, Nyaruma refused compensation. When we asked her why she simply said, ‘I am fortunate. I have no children and no husband to take care of. These other women, they have so many children and no way to feed them. Sometimes they are caring for children that aren’t their own. I have to help them.’
We found out later that Nyaruma actually did have a child, a daughter, but she died some years earlier from dysentery, a disease all to common in a country where only 1 in 3 people have access to clean drinking water. But that’s not why we are telling her story. We are telling it because it’s way too familiar. It blurs so easily into the all too typical African war narrative: death, trauma, fear, sickness. Rinse, repeat. But it’s not the same, no two stories are. Nyaruma is one of so many individuals that got dealt one of the worst hands life has to offer. We can’t rewrite history but we can create a better future for the South Sudanese.
We have this incredible opportunity to work together with Nyakuma and others to make things better for the refugees – to prevent sickness and death, to create livelihoods and to transform lives. Please join us by making a donation today!