In late 2019 we called on Canadians to support education and relief efforts in Bidi Bidi, Uganda – one of the world’s largest refugee settlements.
We shared the story of a girl named Jemma*, who became displaced after rebels attacked her home village in South Sudan. Jemma’s story is sadly all too normal for the approximately 270,000 refugees living in Bidi Bidi.
Now a few months later, we’re thrilled to reconnect Canadians with Jemma and her journey toward unleashing her equal power.**
Our progress in supporting children like Jemma is only possible thanks to all those who stood together to Defy Normal and rallied for education for all.
When we last heard from Jemma, she had arrived in the settlement, alone and afraid. Managing her menstruation was particularly challenging as essential sanitary products were scarce in the camp.
“Whenever you’re on your period and you have no pads, you don’t feel comfortable,” she says. “You don’t feel like going to school.”
But her living situation and mental and emotional well-being are improving thanks to the support of Plan International.
Our response has focused on opening opportunities and safe spaces for children like Jemma to recover in harmony – restoring a sense of comfort and childhood. Education is an unequivocal right and part of childhood, and thanks to Canadians’ generosity, we’re making significant strides to supporting students in the settlement.
We’re also distributing thousands of vital resources like sanitary pads and learning materials to better equip children like Jemma to learn and thrive.
Though schools are currently closed, hygiene kits and learning packages are still being distributed to children at their homes.
“Plan International has provided us with [a safe] space where we can carry out activities like netball, drama, music and dance,” Jemma explains. “Whenever I play, I feel relaxed. I don’t think of bad things. I feel happy.”
Jemma also gained the chance to secure an education – something our staff are working hard to ensure can remain for children around the world, even if from a distance. Not only does this reinstate a reassuring routine and help keep her safe during the day, but most importantly, it assists Jemma in harnessing her power and right to learn, equally, no matter her circumstances – as all children should.
“Here we are studying so that in future we can be the new leaders of South Sudan…making it a safe country again,” she adds – showing how support and opportunities can inspire and encourage new, hopeful and motivated generations to help reduce conflict and disease and promote peace and health for all.
Though there’s still much to be done to support the hundreds of thousands of young people affected by crises in South Sudan and around the world, we bid Canadians our sincere thanks for what they’ve done so far to champion children’s education in Bidi Bidi refugee camp and beyond.
*Name changed for protection purposes.
*All photos taken and interview conducted pre-COVID 19 pandemic.