Kids in Camps – How are they doing?
Our amazing journalist Zoe Flood went to Uganda on behalf of the Aletheia Foundation at the end of 2016 to visit Grace and Anna to see how they were doing.
Grace and Anna still receive donations from viewers and so it’s great to be able to share how they are doing even after all these years, and also to show how your donations have made such a difference.
Reported and written by Zoe Flood;
I visited the Biar family in Bungoma, western Kenya in late 2016, on behalf of the Aletheia Foundation.
After meeting in the centre of Bungoma, a small trading town hard up against the Kenya-Uganda border, we – Grace, her father Biar and me – followed the railway lines that run right into Uganda out to the family homestead, the sun setting in front of us as we walked.
The children follow these tracks – morning and night, about 30 minutes in each direction – to and from school every day.
At the family homestead, the boys – 10-year-old Amos Dau Biar and 7-year-old John Malieth Biar, both reserved but polite – were home from school. Soon after 13-year-old Anna joined us as well. With the whole family present, we discussed the challenges they’ve been facing since their arrival in Kenya. Grace took the lead – the other children are quite shy and the father is still working on his English.
Life is much better for them than in South Sudan, but money is a constant challenge. The support they receive from the Aletheia Foundation is absolutely critical to their survival and, in particular, to the education and wellbeing of the children. The Aletheia Foundation has been covering their school fees and related essentials, such as books and uniforms. But when I got there, the wear and tear to their uniforms and especially shoes was significant. All four children also share a bedroom – the boys share a bed and the girls were sleeping on a mat on the floor.
The house is comfortable enough, if spartan, and the area they live in feels safer than other parts of town. The rent – which is about £80 a month – is a burden though. Their father, who brought the younger children from South Sudan in April 2015 (as the family recalls it), was a pastor in his home country. He has struggled to find employment in Bungoma. Other costs they have to cover at home include charcoal for cooking, electricity bills, and of course foodstuffs. They have been living on a basic diet of githeri (mixed bean dish), ugali (maize flour mash) and sugary tea. Variations to this diet seem rare and they said that often they will only eat one meal a day, usually in the evening. There is of course no room in their budget for an emergency of any sort, particularly medical.
The next day, Grace and I visited both her school, Namachanja High School, and the primary school, DEB Bungoma, attended by the three younger children. She had a strong relationship with the head and teachers at the primary school especially, and we were welcomed warmly. She obviously spends time going in to monitor the younger children and keep things on track. I met the children’s class teachers as well – while the classes were very crowded and under-resourced, the school had a pleasant atmosphere.
Grace said that she wanted to move to a boarding school as it would help her focus on her studies. Anna too was doing her end of primary exams and has to move to secondary at the beginning of 2017. The boys would remain at DEB Bungoma.
I finished the visit by helping Grace with some shopping for the family, which she was both excited and relieved by. We bought strong shoes for all the children, some new books for the boys, some essential toiletries and sanitary products, and some food staples for the family – as well as a live chicken as a special request.
We also visited the local director of education to follow up on the matter of Grace’s primary certificate. She finished primary school in Jonglei state, South Sudan, and her JCPE primary certificate needs to be converted to Kenya’s KCPE certificate. She needs this if she going to be able to sit her end of secondary exams in late 2017. We are working to arrange this conversion and have contributed to the registration costs.