Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Confident Children Out of Conflict

Cathy's place is a small house along one of the dusty, sandy roads in Juba. We are greeted by a group of giggling girls, they are all curious to see who is visiting. Cathy steps out of the kitchen and greets us. We have managed to come during breakfast time and the girls are waiting anxiously for food. In the kitchen, two of her girls are helping out with the food, one is pouring hot milk into cups and the other one is washing dishes. They all smile shyly at us. Cathy takes us around, the place is not big. There is a living area where Cathy lives and a small kitchen outside, a small yard, an office and wash rooms.
Cathy started the project about two years ago. Her shelter is open for the street kids in Juba, street girls that by some reason cannot live with their families anymore.
- After the war, many families returned but life did not turn into what they expected. Some of them are disabelled, some of them alcoholics, some of the girls have lost both their parents. She points at the little girl in the kitchen. This little one lost her father yesterday, we went to church and had a small ceremony.
Cathy feeds the girls, she makes sure that they go to school, have school supplies, clothes. They wash their dirty clothes in Cathy's place, brush their teeth, get a shower but the place is too small to accommodate them all so during the night, they are forced back on the streets again. All girls are welcome, except for those involved in prostitution. The street boys are too tough to handle so Cathy only brings them food, that they cook for themselves, but to keep them in the shelter is too dangerous.
- Some of them are very violent, aggressive, she explains. They steal, they do drugs.
We walk around, sit in Cathy's office and listen to her project plan, outside the girls are chatting joyfully during breakfast. Afterwards we take some photos and the girls are all excited, hugging us, smiling, laughing at each others faces on the photos. I ask how old they are, there is one little girl that hangs on to me, she is seven. She is all smiles in a beautiful pink dress and another girl, tall for her age, but she is only nine. When she hugs me, Cathy looks at me over her head:
- This one has been molested, she says and my eyes fill up with tears. The girl smiles at me, I try to fight back the tears and smile back. Most of the girls have been molested, she continues. During the night time, they are unprotected and easy targets. There are many sick people on the streets and they know how to take advantage of these small girls.
After our photosession and good bye smiles, Cathy takes us to the place where the street boys hang out. It is a small street behind the work shops, dirty and dusty. The boys are sitting in a group, something is cooking on a small fire. We continue to a huge graveyard, which is also a big garbage dump. Somewhere between the huge piles of litter, small heads are sticking up.
- This is where the boys live. They live under the trees and find their food in the garbage dump.
We continue to another place, under a tree we can see another small group of street children, hiding in the shadow next to a small river. We move on, pass the graveyard and to an open field, also covered with litter. Small sheds mades out of bamboo, tin, paper, plastic. People walking, sitting, sleeping on the ground, small fires where someone tries to cook something they have found in the garbage. We visit a family that just have been food poisoned. The father is weak, he is resting inside a small shed, almost unable to speak. Next to him sits a small baby girl, she looks at us, stretches out one hand, doesn't say anything. Her face is covered with flies. Close to a stone wall, another member of the same family is hiding from the sun, she is ill, from the same food poisoning. Cathy talks to her for a bit. A small girl in a pink dress with flowers is running after us, smiling, takes my hand.
- You can take photos, Cathy says but I feel too embarrassed to document this misery, poverty, unhumanity. Most of my girls come from this place, Cathy explains. The parents are not able to take care of them.
We get into the car and driver back to Cathy's shelter where we drop her outside. She thanks us for coming and wishes us a safe trip back home.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Juba, South Sudan

Juba, located in South Sudan, is a small town. The Nile passes through with its brown water and continues further south. Most of the roads are dirty, sandy and extremely bumby. The streets are covered with various election propaganda, in less then two weeks, South Sudan will have its first election ever. The majority of the population in the South is Christian whereas in the Northern part of Sudan, it is predominantly Muslim.
Along the dusty roads just outside Juba Town, truck after truck with goods from Kampala or Nairobi are parked. The market offers anything you can possibly wish for, animals, fake handbags, gold, tiffins, clothes, toys, Iphones and Blackberry phones. Most of the goods come from Kenya, Uganda or other neighbouring countries. On dusty, sandy roads, buses run on a regular basis between Kampala, Entebbe and Juba, and also Nairobi.
It is only 170 km to Nimule Wildlife Park, near the Ugandan border, but the trip takes around five hours by car, due to the roads. It is so bumpy you actually lift from your seat several times. We pass by villages with their round houses and coneshaped grass roofs. laundry is hanging to dry in the hot sun, children are playing and animals are walking freely in the grass outside. The landscape is flat, however in the far, we can see mountains and green hills. It is green, even lush in some places. You do not wonder off in the bush, if you need to do your busienss, you stay by the road. The landmines are still causing a major problem, and red signes are posted on the trees along the road: "Warning- Mines".
As we are driving back from Nimule to Juba, we pass by large groups of children with their school uniforms and bags, and it makes my heart warm to know that despite living in a village in the middle of nowhere, they still have the opportunity to go to school.
On our way back, one of the front tyres goes flat and it takes the boys around half an hour to change it. The road is dusty and quiet, once in a while a truck with goods from Uganda or Kenya passess by, or a bus with people on their way to or from Juba.
After a quick visit to the market, we end up having lunch at the "Da Vinci" restaurant, a beautiful place just by the Nile River, with a perfect view. Large Mango trees provide shadow and it is all very quiet. The food is good but a bit expensive. Mostly expats come here, or people who work for the government. People with a bit of money. The restaurant is owned by a Norwegian guy and one wonders how you get the idea to start up a restaurant in Juba, of all places, but apparently, it goes very well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday my sweet girl, I can't believe you are already 3! I love you so much!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A very busy month

This month has been very busy so far. If everything goes well, I will be on my way to Nairobi, Kenya and then Juba, South Sudan by next weekend. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to that trip! It is business related, so even more interesting!
The month of March started of in a very pleasant and social way! I had the opportunity to meet Lisa who visited Dubai for a few days and together with Catrine, another Swedish girl who lives here in Dubai, we had a great dinner at Trader Vic's in Madinat Jumeirah! The blog network is fantastic, you meet all these incredibly nice people with various backgrounds and nationalities and when you finally meet up, it's like you have known them forever (which you have, sort of..). Well, it was the first but I certainly hope not the last time I meet with my blogfriends IRL!
Husband and son took of for Sweden a few days ago and they are spending quality time up in the north, skiing, snow mobiling, fishing and I am making plans for the upcoming birthday of my lovely girl (March 17, St. Patrick's Day).
I have also started a new life! Last week I signed up for a private trainer, ten sessions, at the Polo Club. That will give me a good start and one week later, I am more motivated than ever! However, my poor body is in a state of shock I believe. My left ankle is swollen and and I can't really put any weight on it, let alone do some running. That didn't stop my unlimited motivation the other day, something I paid dearly for the following day when I could barely walk... so now I am resting the ankle for a few days. One does learn, eventually.