The Jellybean Safe Schools project in the Gambella region of Ethiopia is progressing and we are look forward to construction commencing early in 2019. I am delighted that our contribution will be helping people like Sarah* whose harrowing story is shared below. Initiatives like this not only help refugee children get into school but also help their parents get an education too through the Community Learning Hubs which provide numeracy and literacy support, life skills training, and peace-building initiatives.

Read Sarah’s story and you will see how vital the Jellybean Safe Schools Project with Plan International UK is. It transforms lives, makes refugee status more bearable and vitally provides hope for the future for thousands of displaced people. Sarah benefitted from a very similar project previously carried out in Gambella when she fled the violence in South Sudan.

Jellybean Safe Schools project 2019Sarah* is from Upper Nile, South Sudan and has a disability which means she is unable to walk on her own. She has lived in the Kule refugee camp, in Gambella, Ethiopia, since 2014. She became separated from her family as a result of the conflict and arrived with her Grandmother at the Kule refugee camp after a five day, bare foot journey.

“It was very horrible, many people were killed, raped and kidnaped, it was the worst experience that I have ever seen. I left my family, brothers and sisters and my beloved village. It was so hard and really it is very difficult to remember that bad memory, everything is destroyed there” Sarah explained. Entering Ethiopia was a journey fraught with danger as Sarah, her Grandmother and her neighbourhood friends came on foot through the jungle. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence.

It was such a challenging and harrowing time for so many South Sudanese children. Sarah and her Grandmother finally arrived safely at Kule refugee camp, however her relief soon turned to horror as she was raped by an unknown man. Sarah soon realised she was pregnant. “It was so hard for me, because as you can see; I’m not able to do anything by myself, I am disabled.”

Sarah and her Grandmother’s challenges soon mounted with the birth of Sarah’s son, but thankfully Plan International Ethiopia’s programme for child protection in emergencies was able to assist by providing material and psychosocial support.

“Plan International provided me a blanket, mattress and hygiene kit and their staff visit me and my child regularly to see how we are doing. They have linked us with other NGOs for nutrition food supply” added Sarah. “Plan International is doing such a good thing constructing a school so that children can get an education and there is also a Child Friendly Space where they are happy and secure to play.” said Sarah

“Now my child and I are doing well. Our lives are slowly returning to normal. I have never attended school before but I will take this opportunity to go to school in the camp. I have hope; my future is bright thanks to support from Plan International,”

The work that Plan International Ethiopia is doing in the Gambella region literally changes lives like Sarah’s and Jellybean is so proud and humbled to be part of the new safe schools project in a similar refugee camp in 2019.

*Names have been changed for child protection purposes.