In our first year of marriage Tim and I wanted to work together on something worthwhile so we decided to do the course offered by the Refugee Service that would then link us up with a family just granted asylum. We were to be their hosts, to show them around their new town, help set them up with furniture, benefits and daily know-how.
In hindsight, it was a really formative time- opening our eyes to global injustices and forcing us to think about connectivity and relationships between countries that are so different and far apart.
The day arrived for us to meet the family just arrived from Myanmar, a mum, dad, a daughter and a son. They had begun the journey to safety as a family of five but their middle child had died during a tragic car accident.
Through the use of a translator we heard their story and it was heavy with tragedy, empty with loss, full with grief. We’d arrived at this meeting young, hopeful, naive, and left it speechless and despairing.
It was the children that made us most sad. They were two and five years old and our hearts were massively burdened by their experience of such fear and vulnerability in their tiny lives.
I guess the worst thing was that we knew our new friends were the faces of an enormous, global issues. Families are fleeing conflict in their thousands everyday, so much so that it isn’t even news any more.
I heard recently of new outbreaks of violence and conflict in South Sudan where thousands of refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. There are currently an estimated 201,000 displaced people as a result of the violence. At the moment, Uganda is bearing the brunt, as there are more than 46,000 South Sudanese refugees now in Uganda, with 1000 more arriving everyday. Charities are facing real problems in trying to address the needs of these people due to the congestion at a transit centre near the border.
One of the charities, Plan UK, has been operating in South Sudan since 2006, focusing on food security and nutrition, education, vocational training, child protection and humanitarian support. However, due to the current conflict, Plan is now turning their efforts towards providing water and sanitation services to the refugees fleeing the country.
Doctors estimate that there are ten babies born each day into the turmoil. Plan UK is working hard to provide vital healthcare to mothers and babies, and makeshift hospitals have also been set up where necessary to administer much-needed vaccinations and prevent the spread of infection.
The risks to children are particularly severe as they can become separated from their families while fleeing the conflict. Plan UK is also doing all they can to provide much needed child protection and emergency education in the refugee camps. Temporary schooling has been set up where possible and school resources have been provided to give the children some sense of normality and stability.
Plan UK are doing important stuff getting resources to these families and you have a spare moment or any cash to help please do get in touch with Plan UK.
In the last few years, what with a bit of a nomadic existence, Tim and I have begun to see ourselves as global citizens more than anything and I really do reckon that we have a tiny but important role to play in easing these awful early years for vulnerable children across the world.
This was a charity post in association with Plan UK.
PS If you like to PIN (er, who doesn’t!?!) please do join in with this collective board Citizen of the Whole World- a bit of Pinterest subterfuge, balancing out pictures of glam up do’s and everything ombré (what is WITH everything being ombré on there?!) with inspirational change-the-world stuff.