A few days ago, Rebeca, a former JRS Maban staff, was wearing a JRS T-shirt in Juba and was stopped by a deaf person. She was asked whether JRS was in South Sudan. This person so greatly benefited from JRS that he wanted to reconnect with the organization. He was supported through our scholarship program while in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya) to complete his primary and secondary education attending special needs schools where he learned to master the sign language. Later, he pursued his education in Kakuma refugee camp through the JC:HEM program. attaining an on-line diploma accredited by the Regis University (Denver, CO, USA), focusing on Education.
His name is Abraham and he is back in his home country despite the current conflict. He is trying to help children who face similar challenges as the ones he faced when he was a kid, supporting primary students with hearing impairments by teaching them sign language and other skills.
Abraham is deeply grateful to JRS for the opportunity offered to him while in exile and he is now sharing what he learned with his own people.
Yesterday around 10 am I receive a phone call. Philip, one of our psychosocial workers in Doro refugee camp has passed away. In fact, he was the first one to recieve JRS in Doro camp. He used to visit elderly people in the camp encouraging them, listening to their problems, stories, complaints, etc. He battled for few months with a serious sickness. Last time I accompanied him to the hospital the diagnosis was bad: a big growth in his liver. “Father, not much can be done” the doctor told me. We are in a remote corner of South Sudan, a country at war, so even a biopsy or appropriate treatment in his case was just not possible.
Upon receiving the news we rush to his home. As we approach his shelter we hear the wailing sounds. At least two hundred people have congregated. Many women are crying loudly, some uncontrollably. We enter the small house made of grass and roofed with a plastic sheet. In it around fifteen women are on the floor surrounding the body wrapped with a shroud. They are singing a religious song, a Christian song with a sad and repetitive tune. Many of them are shedding tears. I recognize Philip´s wife, her face is shaken. It is such an intense moment and the little house is so hot that some of the women faint and are taken out.
We move then to the cemetery, an anonymous place under a few trees just five minutes away from the home. A large group of men are digging the grave taking turns. It is an arduous task that takes around two hours. There is not much talking. People are mostly in silence considering this tragic event. A man of 52 years has died, leaving behind his wife and 8 children, plus a good number of grandchildren.
Death is always a mystery, but to die in exile is a tragic mystery, one would dare to call it an unjust mystery. The wailing sounds of the women were in fact like a cry out to God, asking
“why, why, why do we have to continue burying our beloved ones in this strange land?
Until when will this terrible pain afflict us?”