“It was frightening to see dead bodies”: Liep’s Story
15- year- old Liep is in grade six at Zone A primary school at Tierkidi Refugee Camp in Gambela Region. In 2014, Liep,along with his sister and four of her children,had to flee their hometown due to heavy fighting that broke out in their home village in South Sudan. When the war broke out, Liep was at his uncle’s home. His mother was away to visit his father who was a soldier living in another place. He says he received no news about his parents since he left South Sudan despite several attempts to trace them.
Seifu Assegid met Liep at the camp in Gambella and sent us this story.
Liep was selected by Save the Children to participate in the child resilience workshop that was run at the site. The child resilience programme is a series of workshops for children and caregivers. The workshops focus on strengthening children’s resilience and wellbeing and building their skills to protect themselves from violence and abuse, including stigma and bullying. It also teaches children about their needs and entitlements for protection and needs and builds their skills to negotiate to fulfill those needs. The program has various sessions that increase children’s confidence and interpersonal relations.
Save the Children also runs workshops for caregivers. These workshops focus on providing positive caregiving skills and improving the caregivers’ knowledge and skills on how to protect and provide support and care to children.
Liep narrates his story as follows.
“My name is Liep. I am 15 years old. I am in grade six at Tierkidi zone A primary school. English and Mathematics are my favourite subjects. When I grow up and after finishing school, I want to be an engineer or a pilot. I understand that I need to study hard to achieve my dream. One day, I would like to work in different countries, and I would like to go to America.
When the war broke out in our community, I was at my uncle’s home in Uror County in South Sudan, while our mother was in the Dinka tribe area to visit our father who was a soldier at the time. What I saw on that day when the fighting broke out was people running away because there was gunshots. I also ran with other people to save my life. I did not know where to go; I only kept on running until I found my sister near the border to Ethiopia. Along the way, we saw a lot of fighting and dead people. It was very frightening to see dead bodies.
After more than 20 days of walking and very little food, we finally arrived at Pagak village, which is a small town at the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia. While we were there, we did not receive any support. But after we reached Tierkidi camp, Save the Children provided us with some material for sleeping, water containers and cooking utensils. They also provided us with food and shelter.
Save the Children’s social workers also do regular visits to our home. They prioritize unaccompanied or separated children who live with foster families. During one of these visits, one of the facilitators from the camp told me about this child resilience workshop and he asked me to participate in the workshop. Together with my friends in the camp, we completed 15 sessions; each session lasted for about two hours. We ended the workshop in August this year. The lessons from the workshops were very interesting and interactive. The first two workshops were very exciting to me, because I got to know the other children and I also got knowledge of the people who matter in my life.
What I remember from the sessions is that we learned about different methods in order to end violence. We were told that if we saw people fighting, we should not involve. Instead, we should advise them not to fight. Violence can cause a lot of harm – just look at South Sudan, where two people started fighting and now this has cost the life of so many people.
Violence used to be part of my life, too. When I played football and somebody happened to kick me, I would easily start a fight. Now I try to manage my rage. I also experienced violence at home from my sister. But now after the training, I easily end the violence. When my sister says something to me, I will not react negatively, and if it is my mistake, I will tell her so.
My sister also participated in the parents’ meeting run by Save the Children here in the camp. Compared to before, my sister has changed a lot. Now we communicate better. If I wanted to ask something, I do it politely, and my sister has started listening more to me instead of quarrelling. Also, she treats me the same way as her own children now.
I think all the topics in the child resilience workshop were really useful and fun. The game about the animal walk was one of the best games. This game taught us about the different walks of the animals. For example, we should walk like a tortoise, a cow, a dog, a pig and a chicken. I especially liked the chicken, because it can walk and fly at the same time. I even tried flying. It was really fun playing this game with my friends.
When I was in South Sudan, I enjoyed playing with my friends. I miss my friends in South Sudan very much. I hope the situation in South Sudan will soon improve, so that we can return home and be with our families once again.”
Save the Children’s resilience programme was primarily designed to strengthen the social, cognitive and emotional skills (understood as resilience) of children in crises. In Addition, the participating children learn how to manage and deal with difficult emotions, such as anger, anxiety, stress, etc. There is also focus on how to be physically and emotionally strong and healthy and solve problems without violence.
Tierkidi is one of the largest among the three refugee camps that was established following the conflict in South Sudan and currently, it hosts more than 70,000 South Sudanese refugees out of which 89% are children and women.
Ethiopia is host to the second largest refugee population in Africa, sheltering 883,546 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of 30 September 2017.