Joseph, a South Sudanese who has lived a life of refuge, street… and resilience

The story of Joseph, who escaped Kakuma, became a street child, was buried by his family… but keeps a beautiful smile in front of life.

Portrait of Joseph.

They reached Kakuma few years later. But in 1999 he escaped to Nairobi and became a street child. Until he was found by Sr Louis, a German nun working at JRS.

“I had nothing on me. I was only wearing a t-shirt, nor even pants nor shoes.”

After three long days of traveling, hidden in the back part of the truck, he arrived to the destination. However, contrary to what he thought, it was not Juba, but Nairobi.

“I saw electricity for the first time in my life. I didn’t know where I was… It was full of big buildings, as the ones I had seen only in movies.”

“I saw this big glass, where I could see my reflection. It was like a big mirror. I had never seen something like this… back home we only had one mirror, small like this [makes a small circumference with his fingers, about 5cm].

I stood there for a long time, just watching at me. People exiting the building was looking at me and laughing.”

“A women came to me, saying something I could not understand. Now I guess she was asking where I was coming from… After a while, she left, and came back with some chips. I had never seen something like that before. She was showing me how to eat them. I understood nothing, until she started eating them. So then I ate.”

“I did not know where to go. Every area was the territory of a different group of children. I just had to adapt”

One day he saw a group of South Sudanese, that drove him to Sister Louis, a german nun that used to work with JRS by the time.

“I wondered… who is this people? They look like me! So I followed them.”

He managed to continue his studies until finishing secondary education.

Joseph and one of his friends watching a basketball match.

“They did a local prayer, welcoming back to life.” [he laughs]

They where asking me for the Nuer. I just asked them ‘But what have Nuers done?’ so they hit me until I was nearly killed

“Even if the Parliament is dissolved, the people in power will not be elected by the people. There will still be the old men in power. It is us, the young people, who needs to bring peace to the country.”

Jesuit Refugee Service, with the goal of accompanying, serving and advocating for forcefully displaced people in Ethiopia, South Suda, Uganda and Kenya.