Education plays a very important role in Queen’s life. Four years ago, it was the lack of education that was the big feature in her day-to-day life in South Sudan. In 2019, she was 10 years old and out of school. She had attended Primary 1 for a short time but due to her family being so poor, they were unable to pay her school fees and the school expelled her. During her brief stint in education, she showed herself to be bright and attentive and loved playing with the other children and being in school with them, but it wasn’t to last. Her story is not unique. More than 70% of children are out of school in South Sudan and the majority of these are female.
Queen has always been close with her mother, but her father abandoned the family soon after she was born, leaving them in hopeless poverty. There would be days where Queen would go to bed at night having not eaten one mouthful of food all day. They struggled to access food, medicine, health care and clean water. Although she never ended up living on the streets like many other children in her situation, it was a very distinct possibility growing ever nearer as her situation worsened. However, Queen’s life turned around when she came onto the Gumbo Child Support Project and began to be sponsored by Morag through Comfort International.
Queen was quickly able to go back to school where she was able to fulfil that amazing potential she had shown when she was much younger, as well as being able to meet and play with friends like any child should be able to. Last month she shared with her sponsor, “This year, I moved to Primary 5. Outside of school I was able to do different things including Arabic translation for the group from Scotland as I do speak some English now! The year was so good and I was able to play games with friends including skipping robes, racing, playing netball and sharing stories with my friends.” She went on to say, “When I get food, hygiene materials, accommodation support and other different basic needs it make me happy. I now speak more English than before and this year I was able to speak with the team who visited us from Scotland and we loved the fact they provided different things and gave us time. I am doing well at school and glad that I have so many of my friends walking together to the school.”
Queen is not the only one to be affected by joining the project which is facilitated by Comfort Rwanda and run by an amazing team of volunteers. Her mother has become a helper on the project and loves to help and support the other children who come for meals and supplies and fun games together. She has also begun hairdressing training and Queen has even been learning alongside her! Queen says, “I feel happy that the project has been taking care of me and my family. We have suffered before without any help from my father and when the project helped us our lives changed. My mother is part of the project team and she loves helping other people in the project. When we have problems we speak to the project team and they help us.”
Queen always had the potential to be an amazing student. She always had the dreams, the ambition, skills, imagination, kindness and ability to be successful, putting her hope in God and trusting in his strength. The reality though, is that, like for so many who are growing up in South Sudan or some of the other incredible poor countries Comfort International is working in, Queen’s starting point was not the same as it would be had she been born in a first world country. The basics of life that we take for granted – food, security and education, were not available to her. That means that dreams and ambitions had to be put aside in order to merely survive. This is not the way it should be for any child, not matter where they are born. Sponsorship isn’t a handout to helpless individuals. It is a start at making life a level playing field for those born into poverty. We are far, far away from this but by providing the necessities, we can take the first steps to make sure children like Queen have the opportunity to dream and the resources to make this a reality.
Queen put it this way in a letter to her sponsor, “I am very happy to write to you. I am very thankful to God for bringing you into my life. Before joining the project I barely got food to eat and clothes to wear and going to the hospital for treatment was really not easy for me because of poverty. But now the project has really made my life so nice as I get all my basic needs.”