Frontline Stories

East or West, Home is Best


“I’ve been running throughout my life. I’m now too old. I can’t run anymore. My only wish for my country is peace. I would love to be buried at my home back in South Sudan. But that can only happen if there is total peace to allow us to go back.” That sums up the life and wishes of Cizarina Kade, a 70-year-old refugee from South Sudan living in a refugee settlement in Adjumani district, Uganda.

It’s the third time she has sought refuge in Uganda. The first time was during the First Sudanese Civil War (1955-1972). “I was a little girl,” says Cizarina with tears filling her eyes. “We ran with my parents and stayed in Atiak in Gulu District (now Amuru District).” The second time was during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). Cizarina was now married with two children aged two and three respectively. She was seven months pregnant at the time, expecting her third child. It was not an easy journey. By the time they reached Alele in Uganda, it was already dark. Heavily pregnant, traumatised, and now responsible for her children, as her husband had stayed behind, Cizarina’s life as a refugee in Uganda was fraught with challenges. Her husband joined her six months later.

The third time was in 2015 when the war reached her village again. Cizarina escaped, along with two children and two grandchildren. This time, Cizarina’s husband and three of her sons were not so lucky. She doesn't know whether they are alive or dead. She has never heard any news about them since.

“I came bare-handed,” she says. “I got a plot of land, but I couldn’t construct a house by myself because I was sick and weak. I couldn’t send my grandchildren to school. Imagine someone who used to work on her farm, now depending on handouts.”

Cizarina is among more than 215,000 South Sudanese refugees living in Adjumani District in Uganda. Most of them don’t know if and when they would go back to their home country. In these situations of protracted crises, needs are complex and long-term. Along with immediate assistance, they need long-term support, including therapy to cope with trauma and opportunities to earn a living.

Through a livelihoods project, World Vision is training refugees how to farm more efficiently and connecting them to markets for their harvests. The programme also offers entrepreneurship and leadership training to refugees so that they can start living dignified lives.The entrepreneurship group became a lifeline for Cizarina. The members meet every week to share their stories, progress, and new ideas on how to improve their lives. Cizarina’s Asante Group was supported to acquire a mill.

“When we got here we were only getting food rations,” says Abraham, chairperson of Asante. “As refugees, we succeed not because things are easy for us, but because of resilience and the grace of God, and friends like World Vision. We push through the darkness and we sail against storms. We persist even when ignored. With this mill, our life circumstances have changed. We are more than conquerors through Christ. Our new lifestyle is now like that of nationals.”

Cizarina shares the same perspective as Abraham. “Today our faces are shining,” she says with a beaming smile for the first time. “There’s a lot of change in our lives. What we have been through cannot disappear at once. It’s a process.”

Photos: Brian Jakisa Mungu

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