UGANDA: More than 20,000 students view the new documentary “Palabek: Refuge of Hope”
(MissionNewswire) Two months after the premiere of the documentary “Palabek: Refuge of Hope” from award-winning filmmaker Raúl de la Fuente on Oct. 17 in Madrid, Spain, more than 20,000 students attending high school, bachelor’s degree courses and Salesian vocational training centers in Spain have seen the documentary and listened to Salesian Father Ubaldino Andrade speak about the film. The students have come to understand the difficult experiences faced by the refugees. They have also participated in activities that stand in solidarity with them.
Uganda has become home for more than 1.3 million refugees—82 percent of whom are women and children—in the wake of the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. Millions have fled the country and nearly 400,000 have died as a result of armed clashes. Many of those who fled to Uganda have taken refuge at the Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda.
The Palabek Refugee Settlement is currently home to 34,000 people. It was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. Several agencies are involved in providing food and education within Palabek.
In his presentation to the students, Fr. Andrade noted, “The camp is like the courtyard of your school, but you can’t leave it, and 100, 200, up to 300 thousand people live there. Palabek is a settlement of 20 square km, where each family receives a plot of 30 square meters to build its hut and sow something there.”
He added, “Those who reside there are people who have fled war and certain death. They have left their lives, family, work, clothes, home. They arrive with nothing to start from scratch and then have to survive with difficulty just to have a little water, they are without money and with insufficient quantity of food, which is given to them once a month and is always the same.”
In the village there are mostly women and children, often escaping from war, having to walk at night up to the border. Fr. Andrade explained, “But despite everything, they are always happy, they smile, they want to talk, they greet you, they share what little they have and the younger ones appreciate the education they receive. The children of Palabek do not have to take anything to school, because there are no pens, notebooks or backpacks, in some cases they have to travel many kilometers on foot to attend classes. But the Salesians offer breakfast and food to all the children who attend the settlement schools, around 13,000 in number.”
In closing his presentation to the students, Fr. Andrade explained that there are many ways to help Salesian missionaries and refugees at Palabek. He said, “The first is through prayer, which does miracles. The second is to understand and convey the message that when we talk about refugees, migrants or unaccompanied minors, we’re not talking about suspect persons, thieves or terrorists, as some say, but they are people who have fled to save their lives. The third way to help is with money or solidarity initiatives, such as writing letters in English for the children there, or recording a video and sending it through the Salesian Mission Office Madrid and the Salesian Jóvenes y Desarrollo Foundation. The fourth way, for those who are a little older, is to go to Palabek as a volunteer. We are waiting for you there and I guarantee you that your life will change.”
Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much needed psycho-social support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents. They also operate four nursery schools that educate more than 1,000 children. In addition, there are over 700 children attending Salesian primary and secondary schools and more than 700 families that are supported by various other initiatives.
Young refugees are also able to attend vocational training courses for free. Depending on the discipline, some courses will run for 3-6 months while others will run as long as a year. Salesian missionaries have also set up a job placement office that will help students make contact with companies that are hiring, prepare resumes and prep for interviews, and find internships and onsite training opportunities.
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Salesian Missions – Uganda