Cian – Concern Worldwide Series

“After a ten-hour direct flight from Dublin to Addis Ababa and a second one-hour flight on a small propeller plane, my colleague Kieran and I finally arrived in Gambella, Ethiopia. From there, we drove straight for roughly three hours on a long bumpy dirt road to Pugnido refugee camp. When you think of refugee camps, you think of them as being temporary but Pugnido has been around for 27 years and is the oldest refugee camp in the Gambella Region of Western Ethiopia. 65,000 South Sudanese refugees live in Pugnido, and the heat is something else entirely, it reached a meltingly hot 45 degrees while there. To date, the ongoing conflict in South Sudan has forced over 2 million people to flee their homes in search of safety.  These people’s homes and villages have been entirely destroyed but it was only until I got the chance to sit down with a few individuals that I truly began to understand their pain. When hearing the long and treacherous journeys that they had to make to reach safety, my own journey to Pugnido became instantly insignificant. I heard stories of people travelling for days on end fleeing conflict and persecution with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs. Their homes had been raided and their crops had been burned. They had to flee in fear of their lives and many witnessed loved ones being murdered right in front of their eyes. Some of them still don’t even know if their loved ones are alive or not. Imagine how deeply distressing something like that must be? That trip gave me a new perspective on what matters in life and how much I take for granted. In Ireland, we have so many rights that we just forget about, because it’s so normal for us. We don’t need to worry about conflict taking the lives of those we love and we have the privilege of actually planning a future. I often make sure to remind myself that the worries I have are really nothing in comparison.”

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