Life as a Refugee
Awuol’s memory of fleeing South Sudan is a bit unclear as he was a young boy of 8 or 9 at the time. He does recall being quite fortunate as his family, (Awuol, his mother and two sisters,) travelled by truck from South Sudan to Kenya. Many others made that long trek on foot. At the time, one brother had been killed in the war and his two older brothers stayed behind as soldiers.
The family entered the Kakuma Refugee Camp, though Awuol wasn’t there for very long before he began studying at a school outside the camp paid for by Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS).
Awuol remained in Kenya for about 13 years. He completed high school and, worked for over a year as a high school teacher where he taught biology and commerce to his students. He also continued his English studies with Windle Trust Kenya, honing his communication ability.
From Camp to Campus
University was always part of Awuol’s long term plans as his friend, William Gabriel Wani convinced him to apply for WUSC’s SRP program. Awuol said William kept telling him how great Canada was. When Awuol was provided with a WUSC sponsorship, he found himself packing a bag and travelling to British Colombia. He arrived at the Vancouver airport where he was warmly greeted by the UBC Local Committee. It is a good thing his greeting was warm, because Awuol found the August temperatures in BC to be cool. It may be sunny, but the sun provides little heat compared to South Sudan.
His first impression of Vancouver was very positive. After spending time in Nairobi, Awuol found BC to be calm and peaceful. The contrast between the two cities was enormous.
Transition to BC was challenging, but Awuol thinks the process began for him in Kakuma where he was surrounded by people from different cultures. He was able to adapt a bit easier having a perspective beyond the South Sudanese culture. Awuol has high praise for the UBC LC, a strong committee with a long history and plenty of experience in guiding student refugees.
He is thankful that, for the first year, his housing and tuition costs were covered by UBC Local Commitee. In second year he became responsible for living costs, but tuition was paid for the entire duration of his studies.
Upon completion of his degree, Awuol continued his passion for education by heading to Geneva, Switzerland for a certificate program in International Relations on a Quaker scholarship.
A short trip to visit family in Juba, South Sudan brought another change to his life. He extended his leave from CIC and a week later submitted his resignation. He felt it was time to come home and use the skills gained elsewhere to help the land of his birth move forward.
Beyond the SRP
Awuol joined the South Sudan Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration Commission as a Public Information Officer. He manages public and media campaigns, and public relations with government departments and NGOs. He has proven his ability and recently was given additional responsibility. There are 150,000 ex-combatants to be demobilized in South Sudan. Awuol is now managing a World Bank funded program developing an Information, Counseling and Referral System (ICRS).
Family, friends, community are all very important to Awuol. Committed to the rebuilding of South Sudan, he is actively involved in social activities, civil society associations, and political associations. He credits WUSC with giving him the opportunity to gain an education and states that without the knowledge he gained through studies, he would not be where he is today. Awuol is proud to use his skills and be part of the building of the new nation of South Sudan.