A tale of three refugee women.

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“After escaping South Sudan, my life is finally changing for the better. Now I am busy making soap with my women’s group and selling it at the market. Working together, and being able to trade and sell at the market, gives us a great opportunity to learn new things and to secure some financial stability”.

Josephine Ayuru, 34 years old, South Sudanese refugee settled in the Bidibidi refugee settlement

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Nancy Maneno (23), Betty Ekisa (27) and Josephine Ayuru (34).

A mere thought of her journey from South Sudan to Uganda boarder brings tears to her eyes, as 23-year old Nancy Maneno cuddles on to her 6-month old baby. She soaks in more tears while reminiscing of the attack on her family during the war.  “When the war broke out, my three children and I stayed in the bush for days with no food. Coming to such a peaceful environment in Uganda is a like miracle” she says.

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Nancy Maneno

Next to her is 27-year old Betty Ekisa who came to Bidibidi refugee settlement in August 2016 after her home was attacked by rebels in South Sudan. She walked for two days with her husband and 4 children to the Ugandan boarder, where they were later transported to the settlement.

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Betty Ekisa in her back-yard vegetable garden

Betty and Nancy are comforted by 34-year old Josephine Ayuru who describes the skills they just gained from a short-term training in soap making as transforming.  Josephine is the treasurer of Manjoora women’s group comprised of 30 women to which Betty and Nancy belong.  “After escaping South Sudan, my life is changing for the better. Now I am busy making soap with my women’s group and selling it at the market. Working together, and being able to trade and sell at the market, gives us a great opportunity to learn new things and to secure some financial stability”, she adds.

These three women have one thing in common. Despite being victims of the South Sudan conflict they have put their tragic tales aside to work and support each other in these difficult times. Manjoora women’s group is found in Bidibidi refugee settlement area, the largest settlement in the world hosting 272 000 refugees.

The women’s group was formed by CEFORD, a community empowerment organisation for livelihoods under the consortium led by Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and were trained in livelihood actions based on the participatory driven Enabling Rural Innovations (ERI)/ Participatory Action and Enterprise Development (PAED).  As part of collaborative efforts between livelihood and skills interventions, Belgian Development Agency (BTC) has trained the women in their pilot skills development through an entrepreneurship voucher scheme. The goal is to enhance livelihood and labour market relevant skills for youth, women and girls of the refugees through short term vocational training and entrepreneurship support.

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Manjoora women’s group

Group members such as Nancy, Betty and Josephine gain skills in soap making for subsistence and income generation. This will empower them financially. Manjoora women’s group plan to specialize in soap making business for their zone in Bidibidi refugee settlement and empower fellow women outside their group for financial stability.  The group has 30 members, all women, who meet twice a week.

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Context

Since the beginning of the EUTF SPRS-NU programmes throughout the second half of 2016, the refugee situation in the Northern Uganda has taken a dramatic turn. With the renewed fighting in South Sudan and the continuous influx of south Sudanese refugees, Uganda has now become the top refugee-hosting country in Africa and host of the largest refugee settlements in the world. The influx from South Sudan shows no sign of stopping. South Sudan crisis is now the largest refugee situation on the continent and Uganda is experiencing the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.

 

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Meet Frazer (27), beneficiary of Instant skills training

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Digitalization for Development: Coding skills for refugees

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Africa Code Week
Christine Adania trains students of Lokopio Vocational Institute during the Africa Code Week.

 

The excitement on the faces of students at the animated motions and sound coming out of the computers is astounding. This happens to be a first-time experience for students of Lokopio Hills Vocational Training Institute (VTI) in Bidi-bidi refugee settlement in Uganda to learn coding using an easy to use software, thanks to the support from the European Union Trust Fund (EUTF).

“My first time to use computer was when I joined institute a few months ago, today am able to code using blocks and create motions of a cartoon with sound. It is this simple.” Says 20-year-old Apio Immaculate. Immaculate is one of the 90 refugee and host community youth that are undergoing the coding training at Lokopio VTI.

This year’s Africa Code Week focuses on how to use ‘scratch’, a visual programming language developed by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab to lower the technical threshold for coding. Coding is widely considered as the “blue collar” job of the 21st century and is introduced to trainees in order to equip them with skills that can support them in today’s world.

In Uganda, ACW 2017 partnered with a number of partner such as Makarere University as well as with Belgian Development Agency (BTC)’s Support to Skilling Uganda project with an aim to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills needed to thrive in the 21st-century workforce and become key actors in Africa’s economic development.

22-year-old Matovu Joseph who awaits his graduation in Electrical Engineering, a lead trainer at Lokopio shares his experience “this is my first coding class. It is an opportunity for me to transfer knowledge to such a vulnerable group of refugees. The students have appreciated the simplicity in using scratch for coding as a programming language; it is like computerized way of building blocks”.

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Matovu Joseph during training refugee and host community youth in Bidi-Bidi settlement

While taking place in Lokopio VTI with support from the European Union Trust Fund, the ACW was concurrently hosted in Buhimba VTI in Hoima district, St Daniels Comboni and Nakapiripirit VTI in Karamoja region, St Joseph Virika in Kabarole district and Kasese Youth Polytechnic in Rwenzori region with 450 beneficiaries from the respective Business Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET).

ACW in Uganda is part of 35 African countries that are hosting over 1,500 coding workshops involving 500,000 children and youth across the continent. The trainers of coding in Lokopio are part of the youth that were trained at Makerere University (MUK) in partnership with BTC, MUK College of Engineering, Design, Art & Technology (CEDAT), College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), Resilient Africa Network (RAN), Hive Colab and Women In Technology Uganda (WITU) to extend Africa Code Week (ACW) to BTC’s SSU project.

23-year-old Edith Ndagire, a third year Telecom Engineering student, who was trained as a trainer and was part of the instructor team at Lokopio says “the students here are enjoying the coding lessons and have grasped faster than I expected. They are disciplined”. “As a refugee student of Agriculture at Lokopio VTI, I plan to use coding knowledge in creating awareness cartoons focusing on stopping environmental degradation in agriculture for the community” says Immaculate who comes from a refugee family of 8.

The ACW initiative empowers refugee youth such as Immaculate with skills on how to use the computer software and this put them in a good position of not only passing the knowledge to their trainees but also to create income generation for themselves. BTC’s participation in ACW targets VTIs, refugees and host community populations that are often neglected when innovative interventions such as digitalization are rolled out.

 

 

Signs of hope: real smiles.

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Having spent days interacting with persons with one thing in common; refugees from South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, I have come to realise how realistically beautiful they are. No make up, black flawless beauty.

Capturing images of this beauty through their excitement of being part of development interventions by the European Union Trust Fund-my day job. Interventions of Livelihood, Education, Skills development, WASH and Conflict management brings new hope having lost their all in the never-ending war that caused them to migrate.

These are genuine signs of hope, real smiles in acknowledgment of happiness.

The Holy Spirit is God

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The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” not a “force,” and not a “thing.” The Holy Spirit is deity. He is one of the three persons of the triune Godhead. He is God, having the very same essence, attributes, and characteristics of the other members of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit serves a varying role than that of the Father and the Son.

A fact worth pondering.

Because Jesus Lives 

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Abraham and Sarah had waited their entire married life for a child. Even after God promised them a son, they waited for many years. Then Isaac was born. Here was the promised one. Here was the one through whom God would bless the world.
Then God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. “What! I’m supposed to kill the child of promise?”

Hebrews tells us Abraham believed God could and would raise Isaac from the dead. In effect, Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead, because when God stopped him from killing Isaac, he stopped a man fully committed to follow through on his decision to kill his own son.

Abraham believed God, and so was credited righteousness. Why credited? Because righteousness is God’s to give, not ours to earn. The same righteousness credited to Abraham is credited to us, not because we deserve it, but because we accept it.

Do you see why righteousness is a by-grace-through-faith reality, rather than a behavioral exercise?

“[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

We receive both of these when we, like Abraham, “believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”(Romans 4:24).

Abraham could not earn God’s blessing by his own behavior. Look at his failures – Hagar, two different kings with Sarah – when he tried to “help” God’s plan. But he did receive God’s blessing when he took God at his word. Note those two words, “earn” and “receive.”

We simply cannot earn God’s blessing, but we can, by faith, receive the gift offered. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees it.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1, 2).

Because Jesus lives, I live. I have no fear of what tomorrow brings. Because He lives; His Grace abounds. 

‘Refugees welcome’: Uganda’s example to the world. 

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Happy to live peacefully: Drua Christine,  17-year old mother. Village 13, zone 3 Bidi-Bidi refugee settlement. 

She left her village and travelled to Yei with her child. She then spent six days walking to the boarder, pushing on despite the hunger and hot weather. She brought nothing but a few clothes for her child and has started a new life in Africa’ largest refugee settlement camp. 

The Bidi-Bidi camp hosts over 270, 000 inhabitants, the settlement was forced to close to new arrivals in December 2016, due to overcrowding. 

Currently the most recently opened Imvepi camp is home to more than 55, 000 and is filling up fast with 2,000 average arrivals daily. 

As long as Uganda offers a hospitable environment, the South Sudanese such as Drua can live peacefuly and return home once the civil war ends.