Nyamuoh, 11, and her sister, Nyapuot, 9, were torn apart from their family when war erupted in South Sudan. Two years later, Nonviolent Peaceforce helped reunite the girls with their mother.
Nyamuoh tells the story of their tumultuous journey ̶ with help from her little sister Nyapuot.
Our happy life before the war.
Before the war, we lived with our parents and siblings in our village along with two uncles and our cousins. I was in second grade of primary school and Nyapuot was in first grade. I loved the packed lunch my mother made for us every day, only your own mother can prepare your food just right. I loved living with my mother.
Nyapuot ̶ I also loved living with our family. I had many friends and we used to play skipping rope. Fleeing war with nothing but the clothes on our back. When war broke out, our mother was traveling to see her sister who had given birth to twins. Our uncle ran with us when shooting started and we scattered into the bush. We didn't have shoes, food or a blanket. I remember my feet hurt from stepping on the grass and tree roots, but we had to keep running. As we ran, I thought, "Where is my mother? Is she alive? Is she dead? Who will care for us? We walked all day and ran when bullets flew past us. Many people were injured, some even died. We just kept running. I didn’t know if we would survive the night.
A pilot rescues us.
When I finally managed to sleep that night, I heard the gunshots in my dreams. We woke up the next morning to more fighting. My uncle took us toward an airstrip, hoping to keep us safe. When we arrived, we saw people boarding a cargo plane. We didn’t think, wait or ask, we just boarded it. The cargo plane had brought supplies from the capital and the pilot witnessing the fighting tried to fit people on to save them. Finding safety at the UN protection site. When the plane landed in the capital, we followed people with money to take a taxi to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
I knew we were safe when we arrived at the Protection of Civilians site. I started to relax and my uncle began to comfort us saying, “We will survive and maybe there is another protection site near our village. Maybe our family will be safe there.” I was happy to hear that.
Two years away from our parents.
Our life in the protection site was calm—we lived with our uncle and a woman from the Nuer tribe like us. We went to school. We passed almost two years not knowing about our family, though I worried about them every day. I felt so alone without my mother and father.
A neighbor tells us our mother is alive.
After a while, the woman we lived with began beating us. It made me miss my mother so much. One day, my sister and I were talking about missing our mother and wanting to go back. A woman overheard and asked some questions about our family. She then said to me, “I know your mother. She was my neighbor in the protection site." She told us our father was killed when he left the site to see if it was safe to return to our village.
We find Nonviolent Peaceforce can help us.
In my mind and my heart, I felt some distress melt away. All I could think was, "How can we get to her? Our mother is alive, how do we go to her?" We heard an announcement about Nonviolent Peaceforce reuniting families and we went to register. Waiting was hard, but I was so happy to know our mother was alive. Every night I dreamed about meeting my mom again, but every day I would tell myself, “These people are lying. Don’t believe them." I didn’t want to be disappointed.
Our flight is cancelled.
Finally, the day came to return to our mother. We arrived at the airport with Nonviolent Peaceforce staff and waited five or six hours, only to find out the flight was cancelled. At that moment, I feared the NP staff were lying and I wouldn't get to see my mom. I was scared that they planned to take us away from our uncle to kill us or that they would make us live alone without a caregiver. After two days, my fear went away when we finally got on a flight.
Finally reunited with family!
After getting off the plane, we travelled in a vehicle to our mom's protection site. As we arrived, I saw my mother through the window. All my pain, all my difficulty, the distress— it was forgotten. I only felt happiness, pure happiness. I ran to my mother. We all cried, my mother, my sister and I. My sister and I yelled, “Mom, mom, mom, mom!” We hugged, laughed and cried. When we got to our house, my siblings were sleeping. I didn’t recognize them, they had grown so much. The younger children didn’t remember us, but they were happy when my mother told them we were their missing sisters.
Our life, together with our mother again.
Now our life is so different from the misery we suffered before. We live with our family, together. Our mother is facing problems because our father died. Now we don’t have shoes or school fees. Collecting firewood is the only means of survival and our mother must be both parents.
Planning for the future.
Nyapuot and I want to return to school very much. I want people to know how happy and excited I feel. God has saved my life and I will work hard to make a difference. After I complete my studies, I want to be a teacher so I can share my knowledge with children.
Nyapuot—I want to be a doctor so I can save the lives of innocent people. I want people to know that even though I am shy, I will also serve my community. It matters so much that people and organizations like Nonviolent Peaceforce are working to care for the lives of children like me.