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SUDAN: Salesians Provide Education, Give Hope to Youth in Refugee Camp

(MissionNewswire) In 2012, Salesian VIS volunteers set up an educational refugee program to support youth in the Mayo Camp in Khartoum. The project was financed by Cerveteri Solidale Onlus and UNICEF. The VIS “Child Friendly Learning Space for Returnee Children of Mayo” Project seeks to educate 600 young refugees from South Sudan and areas which are affected by continued fighting between the new State and the Government in Khartoum.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 113,000 Sudanese refugees are in refugee camps in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and another 67,000 in Unity State. Years of war have displaced many from their homes. Most recently, an outbreak of hepatitis E has affected more than 6,000 people in South Sudan refugee camps since July. The agency is reporting that 111 of those infected have died.

Late this past January, Gabriele Buracchi, a VIS volunteer, spent time at the Mayo Camp.

“When we arrived the schools were packed with children from six to 14 years of age ready to welcome the visitors,” says Buracchi. “It was a happy atmosphere, with local songs and national anthems of both South and North Sudan and a good sign of respect and integration between the two macro-communities in the country.”

“The pupils were at ease and when we asked them what big things they wanted to achieve, a host of hands shot up, all wanting to express their wish,” adds Buracchi.

The happy atmosphere was in contrast to the reality of the struggles of those in the camps. Buracchi witnessed five students sharing a plate of lentils and one bread roll. A teacher explained that there isn’t enough food available for the children so they must share. Books are lacking but students and teachers get creative by making block notes by cutting educational exercise books in half and holding the pages together with sticky tape.

The Salesians in the camp make do as well as they can under the circumstances, prioritizing keeping the children safe and continuing on with their studies. Education remains the focus as a way of helping youth achieve a viable future.

“I have seen there is much to be done,” says Buracchi. “There are a total of 17 classrooms, five made of brick, seven of earth and straw and the rest have all collapsed because of a lack of funds to repair them at the end of the rainy season. The same goes for the toilets – all in bad disrepair because of the weather.”

“One finds uncertainty at the end of the day, on one hand discouragement and the other encouragement,” adds Buracchi. “After seeing the situation, the motivation of students and teachers, those helping and believing in things, keeping on with the hard work seems the only way to go.”



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