Somd the SOS children posing for a group photo [Phot by Taban Gabriel]
By Taban Gabriel
JUBA, 06 February 2017 [Gurtong]-The Children were displaced from the center when war broke out in July last year. “We were all under the beds,” said Mary Gwang, the caretaker of the place also called a mother to several of the children.
She was with the children at the village at the time when the fighting broke out.
“Bullets were just flying everywhere until when they told us to run. That is when I carried this baby and ran away with her,” she said, shaking her head. Gwang sat at the door of her room as she narrated her experience of the incident.
The children and their caretakers have returned to the village after about six months of staying in temporary buildings in Juba. When they fled in July, the village was looted and nearly nothing was left. It took a long time to replace and repair everything.
Some broken windows can still be seen and broken money safe lies on the ground. Staff at the village said the children were terrified when they left the facility in July and walked to Juba town. First they had to camp in some churches, before the SOS Children’s Villages rented for them a compound in Nimra Talata.
The staff said many of the children were traumatized, but now upon their return to the village they seem to have forgotten all that happened.
As you enter the village it is all quiet and everything has been put back in order. Inside are many orphans and vulnerable children can be seen playing and expressing happiness. They run around, climb on trees, and play with the sand. Their caretakers, known as mothers, singing traditional songs with them.
Alberto Fait, the national coordinator for South Sudan, said the children were happy to return to the facility despite the fear that was inflicted on them by the July clashes.
“As you can see they are happily playing here, because the space is enough for them, and they even eat all the food given to them,” he said.
The displacement of the village in Juba last year was not the first experience the vulnerable children went through, said Richard Wani Clement, the Director of the SOS Children’s Villages.
“In 2014, we relocated the SOS Village from Malakal to Juba due to the conflict that broke out in December 2013 that left our facility looted and vandalized and now the same thing has repeated itself again here in Juba,” said Richard Wani.
Although SOS Villages as an organization has its own funding from abroad to take care of the orphans, some international organizations based in Juba also extended their support to the organization during the July conflict, according to Wani.
“UNICEF and Save the Children did support us a lot with psycho-social activities like playing kits and bringing entertainment and comedies to them,” he said.
Alberto Fait, the national coordinator for South Sudan, estimated the cost of repairing the village, replacing looted items, and the temporary relocation to about $100,000 USD, which they secured from their supporters. But he said they are still hoping for more funding to start a project supporting families in Gumbo.
Asked whether they will one day relocate back to Malakal, Fait said that “the future will determine,” but he however revealed plans to build a bigger facility in Juba that will accommodate more children.
The current number of orphans and vulnerable children at SOS Villages stands at 141, with 87 children and 44 youths. Some are being sponsored in universities in the neighboring countries, according to Wani. Some children have also been reunited with their families.